Monday, March 27, 2006


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.


Chuck Butcher said...

Ok, I'm confused. What exactly do you propose to offer to the American blue collar worker who is watching his wage and job be "in-sourced"? This economic segment has taken a massive beating in wage power, do you propose to assuage them with the good feeling gotten from the sympathetic treatment of illegal aliens? I'll bet their response is going to include a verb starting with "F". And since they work for and with me, mine does also. That's not xenophobia or racism, that's taking care of my own, one of whom is a "Mexican-American". (he says beaner)

And exactly how does this "forgive and forget" stance benefit anyone other than the plutocrats? This sounds a whole bunch like guilt and I ain't buying. Not one of us had anything to do with the condition of those corrupt racist plutocratic countries, let the ones responsible pay up. If you feel guilty, go on out and fix up those holes so their people will want to stay home. I don't care to get dragged down to their level.

Jeff Alworth said...

Chuck, the labor argument is a whole different ballgame, and I plan to address it this week. Krugman has a nice piece on this very issue today, echoing much of what you say. My issue in this post was to debunk the right wing talking point that this whole thing is about legality, when obviously it's anything but.

iggi said...

yeah, there's very little in any arguments that addresses the situations that drives these people across the border. you don't see Canadians running the American border so they can get jobs picking fruit.

i'd like to see you address this Alworth. i've always wondered why the rhetoric continues, but actually addressing the problems with the Mexican government doesn't.