Thursday, March 9, 2017

Immigration Man

The core argument over immigration goes something like this:
Statement: This is a nation of immigrants. Remember, all of us, either we, or our ancestors, came from someplace else. 
Response: We're not against immigrants, as long as they are here legally.
In theory, that response makes perfect sense; this is a country of ample, but limited resources. Simply put, we do not have enough resources to accommodate everyone who wants to immigrate to the United States. Therefore, government makes laws regulating the number of people we allow into this country every year. And if we make those laws, it is incumbent upon us to enforce them, After all, it makes no sense to force people to jump through hoops and other obstacles to get into this country legally, while looking the other way for those who don't.

Unfortunately like most issues, reality is different from theory. The reality is that there are an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States at the moment. Approximately two thirds of them have been living here for ten years or longer. As a simply practical matter, the amount of effort and resources it would take to deport all those people would be staggering. Even more daunting is the ethical issue. Most of these people work, pay taxes, and contribute in other important ways to the communities in which they live. Many of them have children who were born in this country making them US citizens. Mass deportations of established residents would mean uprooting and separating many of these families, causing them and their communities tremendous hardship.

Ah you say but those people willingly came here knowing the risks of not playing by the rules; their suffering is not the fault of the US government, but their own. While there is some truth to this, the reality is that the US government has in fact rightly or wrongly looked the other way when illegal immigrants have proven beneficial to American industry and the economy. If you're all gung-ho about stricter immigration control, ask yourself this question: how would you feel about paying ten dollars for a head of lettuce, or for that matter, a similar exponential price increase for any product manufactured in the United States.

In other words, it's a complicated issue.

We wouldn't be talking about this at all, were it not for the current president who has put immigration at the top of his agenda. Last week he gave a speech to the American people before a joint session of Congress. As part of his "dog and pony show",  de rigueur for such proceedings, he dragged out no less than three relatives of people who were killed by illegal immigrants. What could be a better symbol of the "American carnage" he described at his inauguration, than law-breaking foreigners invading this country and killing our sons, daughters, wives and husbands? It's a tailor made issue for an ambitious politician, eliciting support by inciting fear and anger amongst would be constituents by creating an enemy that, even better, doesn't vote.

Not to diminish the pain and suffering of the victims' relatives, but again, the reality of the situation does not live up to the president's hyperbole. Statistics show time and again that immigrants, legal and otherwise, are less likely to commit crimes than people born in the United States. Which only makes sense when you think about it, most people move to this country in order to better their lives. Most of them truly want to be here, therefore are less likely to jeopardize their status, or blow their cover, by getting into trouble.

That is not to say that of those 11 million undocumented people, there aren't exceptions. As supporters of the current president love to point out for reasons only they understand. under the Obama administration, more people were deported from this country than under any previous administration. Most of those were apprehended either in close proximity to the US/Mexico border as they attempted to cross, or were convicted of crimes. In fact right now, there is a negative flow of immigrants between Mexico and the United States, as more Mexicans are returning home than entering the US. It might seem reasonable looking at those statistics to believe that the US government has indeed taken the problems of illegal immigration seriously all along, and that as far as stemming the tide of alien criminals coming into the country taking away opportunities from home-grown criminals, its efforts are working.

Yet in his infinite wisdom, our current president is not convinced, or at least wants the American people to not be convinced. In the words of one of his executive orders, many immigrants continue to "present a significant threat to national security and public safety”.

Therefore according to him. we still need to build a great wall (paid for by Mexico), intensify the rounding up and deportation of undocumented residents, impose a draconian travel ban on people from specific countries, and perhaps most cruel of all, severely limit into this country, the number of refugees fleeing countries where their lives are in jeopardy.

Now you may be reading this and thinking: "man this guy is completely out of touch. He has no idea what it's like to lose someone to a person who shouldn't be in this country." Well actually I do. Two years ago, my wife's cousin, the father of two boys, exactly the same ages as my children, was killed in a head on collision. The driver of the other car was drunk. He was pulled over by a state police officer for driving the wrong way on an interstate highway. He took off as the trooper approached his vehicle. When he hit my wife's cousin's car, he was reportedly traveling in excess of 100 miles per hour. My wife's cousin was killed instantly and his wife was critically injured. Thankfully she survived, leaving her alone to care for her two fatherless children. 

Over and over again I've thought if only this undocumented, criminal jackass had been deported before he had the opportunity to commit homicide, a tragedy would have been averted and my wife's cousin would be alive today.

I'm guessing that had the authorities known what this guy was about to do, action could have, or at least should have been taken. Unfortunately, crystal balls are not very effective, and the drunk, homicidal driver, who may or may not have committed any other crimes in his life, slipped through the cracks. Three of his victims, the young widowed mother and my kids' cousins, could themselves have been guests of the president in the House of Representatives last week. The man who killed her husband and their father is a poster child for the anti-illegal-immigrant hysteria that has taken over this country.

Yes it's true, illegal aliens have killed American citizens. It's also true that other illegal aliens have done some pretty wonderful things during their stay in this country, no doubt they've even saved some lives. Had the good people been deported, who knows what would have been the outcome for the recipients of their good deeds. That's human beings for you, for every large group of them, you can be sure to find a few bad apples along with a few exceptionable ones, and a whole bunch of them who just like of the rest of us, are trying to get by, minding their own business.

One thing is certain, undocumented residents who have performed acts of charity, kindness, or heroism, will never be invited into the chambers of the House of Representatives during a presidential speech, at least not under this president's watch.

To be continued here.

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