Clash of the Titans LXVII: Illegal Immigration

February 5, 2008, 10:15 am; posted by
Filed under David, Debate, Steve  | 2 Comments

In this corner, supporting stricter immigration laws, is Steve!

And in this corner, opposing a strict immigration policy, is David!

Misplaced compassion is a dangerous force. On this earth, we must all reconcile justice and mercy, because an excess of either produces similar harm. This is why I tell you that if you care about the people of Mexico — if you really care about them — you should support stricter enforcement of our immigration laws.

First, my opponent’s opening argument, carried to a logical conclusion, would entirely eliminate the right to own real property and the sovereignty of nations. None of us deserve anything before we’re born, do we? And our country, bordered as it is by those pesky “invisible lines” drawn before any of our births, apparently has no right or claim to its territory, and should have no ability to enforce the laws its people make. Really?

Fortunately, that’s not the way things work. Governments derive their powers — as Don Shula and Peyton Manning reminded us so wonderfully before the Super Bowl — from the consent of the governed, and owe no duty to provide for those they do not govern. National boundaries mean something, and always will. I’m on the north side of that “invisible line” because my ancestors worked hard and made choices that benefit me. I dang well do have a right to be here, because those folks built “here” — meaning my country, which has passed laws to control who gets to enter it and live. That is our right. Period.

I can’t believe someone could actually believe a country has no right to control entry through its borders. The well-known tragedy of the commons should be enough to dispel this argument; bringing in hordes of people with no connection to this country, simply because they might find a better life here than at home, is a recipe for utter disaster. Our government is not responsible to give the whole world jobs. The church has the largest role to play in helping the less fortunate, not the state.

All that is to say that the choice is not between (a) opening our borders to all and (b) allowing children to starve. That’s emotional blackmail with little basis in fact. And I’m not complaining that “them durn forners” are “taking all our jobs,” either — I like free trade and outsourcing, which make up the other half of my opponent’s argument, with which I totally agree. Moving factories to Mexico does much more to help its people than immigration ever will.

Cultural issues, although they matter, do not compel me to make this argument. There are clearly differences among the peoples of the world, but no race or nation is uniquely blessed. After all, our country is the richest and most advanced for many reasons — most due to ingenuity, technology and hard work, but some due to our shameful exploitation of this continent’s natives and the African slaves.

And that’s my main point. Illegal immigration continues that pattern of shameful exploitation, success on the backs of the poor and powerless. We rightly deplore it when we read about it in our history books, but ignore it when it hides in the guise of mercy. The farm lobby lies through its greedy, manure-specked teeth when it says enforcement of our laws would drive lettuce to $35 a head. What big business truly wants is a permanent underclass of simple-minded drones, human machines who can be replaced at will, paid a pittance, and discarded when necessary. Modern-day slaves, battling not only the scourge of poverty, but also the greed and deceit of those who pretend to help them escape it.

Tough love is the answer when your teenage son crashes your car, or when your underage daughter comes home drunk. As a nation, we must reject a sloppy sentimentality that misdirects our admirable compassion for the needy by both encouraging a culture of lawlessness and creating a new slave class for modern-day robber barons to rape and pillage afresh. They come here illegally, so they will not turn to the law for help. Their own nation shamefully casts them off on us, and so they sacrifice in search of a better life — one that ends with them literally worked to death.

I really don’t care what some poem says on a French statue — our founding document is the Declaration of Independence. It recognizes that all men and women were created equal, and all were endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights. That sure as heck doesn’t mean they all get to live here — we can do what we like with our borders, and frankly, I’m all for drastically limiting immigration of unskilled workers who aren’t fleeing torture or persecution. Go to the mall — we’ve got plenty of dumb folks already.

But if and when we do let anyone in, the Declaration compels us to treat them like we would our brother. That includes both a responsibility to obey ALL our laws, and the right to be treated like a human being. The current policy treats both of those as optional.

“Thou shalt not oppress the stranger that is among you.”
Exodus 22:21

One of the funniest shows I can remember watching in the 70s was All in the Family with Archie Bunker. He was the hero of a generation of white men who sat in their easy chairs complaining about the encroachment of foreigners and minorities, who were ruining our way of life.

It was great comedy, but I’m a Christian now, and I resent the fact that the residual effects of that humor still color our conception of what it means to be an American. We think that somehow, because we were born north of some invisible line, we deserve to be here, while those born south of that line do not. I can’t accept that. It’s one thing to be born on third base and another thing entirely to have hit a triple. You did nothing to deserve to be here.

“But these people are criminals! They broke the rules to get here. Let them go through the proper steps to become citizens like my ancestors did.” That would be nice, I agree, but it’s never been that way. We have always taken in a large number of illegal immigrants. Could you really tell a man whose child is starving, “Fill out this form and leave it at the desk, we’ll call you if something comes up”? I couldn’t.

I wonder what you would do if your family was living in poverty, while 50 miles to the north, there was enough money to lift them out of despair and sickness — all you had to do was get there and work for it. Would you not do everything in your power to help them, regardless of the rules?

“But they’re taking our jobs!” Yeah, they are. What do you want to do — send them home? Let Americans pick produce working for some union that gets them health benefits, decent wages and a good pension plan, while we end up paying $35 for a head of lettuce? Does that fit into your budget?

I get so tired of people whining about losing jobs to foreigners. Our last large textile mill here closed down in 2006; two guys from my church worked there. One ended up as a supervisor at the new Wal-Mart distribution Center, and the other collected unemployment for a few months while working construction under the table.

When a plant closes here, it’s an inconvenience — somebody’s daughter has to settle for a less expensive dress than she wanted for the prom; some guy has to buy his son a used Mustang for graduation instead of a brand new model. Cry me a river.

When the plant opens up in some Third World nation, suddenly people who would have died live! Kids who were begging on the street, or being exploited by perverts for sexual gratification can earn money and change their living conditions. And some poor woman raising her kids alone in the good old USA can afford to buy them new jeans.

The truth is, when we think we’ve hit bottom here, there are still another seven layers of hell we’ll never experience — because we live in the wealthiest nation on the face of the earth, with the most extensive welfare network on the planet.

If you starve here, it’s because you want to. You have to work hard to fall through the cracks. And yet we begrudge help to those who have come here in response to this invitation:

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

Maybe we need to rework that old poem:

Send your wealthy to our scheming shore,
the ones with jobs from across the sea,
the rich investor who can help us more,
the learned man with the Ph.D.,
we’ll leave the light on for you.



2 Comments to “Clash of the Titans LXVII: Illegal Immigration”

  1. Steve on February 5th, 2008 1:49 pm

    I could write for days about why the “invisible line” of a border gives those people inside it the right to control who gets to cross and share the benefit of its power and protection.

    I think that the disagreements we’ve had on the latest clashes have not centered on what should be done about things, but rather who should do them. I don’t think it’s in any way right or realistic for the United States government to solve the various problems of Mexico or the Sudan. But I do believe, with all my heart, that — as Christians — it is our duty to do all we can to help the less fortunate, whichever side of a border they reside on.

    This is one of my principal objections to Mike Huckabee: that he confuses the obligations of the body of Christ with the responsibilities of the state. This deeply endangers both.

  2. David on February 5th, 2008 3:26 pm

    I am not writing as a presidential candidate, nor as a policy advisor for any branch of the US governement, so I in no way feel compelled to offer any comprehensive solution for the immigration question. I write only as a Christian tired of hearing all these other Christians talk like they have to denigrate illegal aliens and demand their expulsion from our country as part of our conservative political heritage/baggage. Early Christians had no roots in a particular country and they certaibly were not safe and secure enough to demand rights which subjugated the needs of others less fortunate than them. i freely admit that I have no rights. If someone wants my coat I’m supposed to give him my cloak too. If he compels me to bear his burdens for one mile I’m supposed to walk two with him. If he slaps me in the cheek I am supposed to offer the other. I can’t get from that to demanding that they stay out of my country and off the public dole so that there is enough for me when I need it. I know that is not what you are saying Steve, but I hear it all the time from Christians and in particular Conservatives.

    And how did we get to the point where this hard line against immigrants is standard Reagan Conservativism when he actually passed an immigration act that included amnesty for the first time?

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