The Bogus "Illegal" Argument
Mucking around the nasty right wing blogs yesterday, I found a common theme that united the anti-immigration crowd: it's against the law.
"I don't discriminate based on skin color or ethnicity, a criminal alien is a criminal alien is a criminal alien. Deport them."This is a no-worries catchall that hides a multitude of sins. It's a safe retreat for isolationists and racists and garden variety jingoists. But it's also obvious misdirection. The same people who try to shout down their foes also oppose legislation like the joint Kennedy/McCain proposal that would change the law so these folks wouldn't be breaking the law. The moment that legislation passes, so does the cover.
More to the point, the notion that the immigration is illegal is even itself rather convenient, given that our economy depends on both the immigrants and their status. And no one is more in favor of getting illegals to do scut work on the cheap than the same GOP who also howl about keeping immigrants out. You can't have it both ways.
This is perhaps one of the main reasons the right are so exercised by the immigration issue. As long as no legislation is on the table, it's a great issue--it unites everyone behind an opaque, fuzzy issue. But it emerges instantly as a wedge for the right when any legislation comes out because either the security hawks, the business lobby, or the isolationist/racist wing loses.
Take Kennedy/McCain plan. It would create guest-worker visas for laborers willing to sign up; they'd pay taxes and become visible to our intelligence community and must pass background checks. They would have to wait five years before having a chance to become citizens. That's good for security hawks, good for business, but flushes out the isolationist/racist crowd.
For Dems, though, it's not particularly thorny. The Kennedy/McCain plan gets Dems everything they want except further protections for workers. Even there, it's better than the current system, in which illegal immigrants are completely unprotected and fully exploited. But there's not much of a wedge.
For conservatives, rife throughout the righty blogosphere, this is an untenable plan precisely because the issue is not one of legal status. If Kennedy's plan passes, you'll find almost as much opposition to immigration as before, and all of a sudden the legal issue won't seem to matter quite so much.