Monday, May 08, 2006

The GOP Immigration Disaster of '06

     For the past 25 years, the Republican party has been spectacular at rewriting the national agenda so that it could maintain its unnatural coalition between the fiscal conservatives and the bible-thumpers. (Except for a slight blip in 1992) At first it was easy. Ronald Reagan had Communists to rail against. And if there were ever an issue to unite the bankers and the good old boys together, it was those godless Commies who hated capitalism. But as the years went by, it was harder to keep reality out of the party line. It fractured in 1992 with the giant sucking sound of NAFTA and didn't recover until Bill Clinton got a BJ in the Oval Office.
     Now the Republican leadership [sic] is struggling mightily to keep the nation focused on terrorism and gay marriage. Unfortunately for them, issues like global warming and corruption and the war in Iraq and the aftermath of Hurrican Katrina and, oh yes, Immigration keep popping up to the fore.
     Nobody seems to know what to make of the immigration issue yet, because it's a complex issue that doesn't like to be painted in black and white. Dems aren't sure how to handle it and are privately thankful the issue is arising during a Republican presidency so they don't have to. Republicans, on the other hand, are going to pay a very large price because immigration will drive a wedge between the capitalists and the theocratists.
     Of course, observers are starting to realize that the issue isn't really immigration, but bigotry. The most vicious illegal immigration opponents fall into two camps - those who have recently emigrated legally and resent the people who did not have to jump through the INS hoops - and those who have absolutely no clue how the immigration procedures work. (This is not to say that everyone else is educated on the subject)
     Look, I have to admit I speak only one language - English. I specifically did not take Spanish in my South Florida high school as an ineffectual passive-aggressive protest against the Cubanization of Miami. I'm not a huge fan of the areas of town where homes hold 12-15 Mexican immigrants. On the other hand, I'm not hypocritical enough to forget that my great-grandparents lived 12-15 to an apartment in New York 100 years ago when they emigrated to this country. And I know they didn't speak English when they arrived, although they eventually learned it. Of course, they had their Yiddish newspapers and shop signs in their neighborhoods too. And since many of them traveled in steerage class, chances are they didn't apply for legal residency until they landed at Ellis Island. So I have some empathy for the Mexicans (and yes, the Cubans) coming to America looking for a better life.
     The Truth is, I'm ambivalent about illegal immigration. Its effects on wage rates, on prices, on schools, on social services, and on property values are complex. However, I'm not ambivalent about the motives of the anti-immigration movement these days. It's nothing but raw, naked racism. You can hear it in the voices of the people who call the radio stations. You can read it in the letters they write to the newspapers. You can sense it from the shock and outrage over a Spanish version of "The Star Spangled Banner", despite the fact that the anthem has previously been translated into German, Latin, Yiddish, French, and of course Spanish. The US State department actually offers multiple Spanish language versions of the national anthem. (President Bush's remark that "I think people who want to be a citizen of this country ought to learn English. only proves that he has no mastery of the English language himself.)
     The immigration issue deserves a lot more attention than one posting can give it. But it is becoming clear that "Hispanic" is the new "Black" in this country. The Republican Congress is trying to hitch its horse to a new "Southern Strategy" in a desperate new attempt to get racists to elect fiscal conservatives. If the strife in Congress is an indicator, the Dems might have a few good years ahead. On the other hand, if they manage to smooth over their differences, it could be Springtime for Conservatives.


Elissa said...

Just so you can't take similar criticism to our oh-so-great Commander in Chief, your ancestors immigrated to the United States by emigrating from whatever country they came from.

Phil said...

Your grandparents immigrated legally. That's all you needed to say to make a huge distinction between them and the illegals.

Scott said...

     Touche, Elissa. Although I still stand by my usage. Emigrate and immigrate mean the same thing, but from different points of view. And of course, when you're focusing on the person doing the migrating, either word will do.
     And thank you, Phil, for telling me what I needed to say. Had I known that, I could have avoided writing 700 words on the topic and impatient bigots everywhere could know that I'm not an untouchable. Alas, I never said they came here legally, only that I know that at some point after arriving they applied for legal residency and then citizenship. If you want to compare apples to apples, maybe we should set up an Ellis-Island type station at the Rio Grande to give immigrants medical tests and determine if they can support themselves and then make them legal. Or if you really want to compare apples to apples for the Americans whose ancestors came hundreds of years earlier, are you suggesting that arriving Mexicans should slaughter US citizens, take their land, and declare themselves legal?
     Don't insult anyone's intelligence by pretending that what you really care about is the legality of the case. Because let me know if I'm wrong, but I suspect you wouldn't exactly be on the side of changing the laws to make these people legal, either.

Phil said...

Sorry, I didn't mean to imply that all I care about was the legality of the case. But there's a ~reason~ why I want it done legally.

I'm all for immigration to the US. (within reason of course.) Legally. So that the immigrants pay taxes. Ensuring they don't smuggle in methamphetimenes. (That was in the news very recently) Weeding out the criminals. etc.

You wrote: "Its effects on wage rates, on prices, on schools, on social services, and on property values are complex." Yes, it's complex, but in some US communities it's devastating. You shouldn't be ambivalent about ~that~.

A side question: I'm not sure I understand what you meant when you wrote: "immigration will drive a wedge between the capitalists and the theocratists." Care to elaborate? I'd say that most theocratists (if there is such a thing in the US) ~are~ capitalists.

Scott said...

A lot of this response belongs in a separate post. However, I'll try to answer your questions with my positions.
1) Taxes: For the most part, people earning $2 an hour aren't going to be paying income taxes anyway. An regardless, they *are* paying sales tax, property tax, ad valorum tax.
2) Some immigrants may be smuggling meth, but the larger drug running problem isn't caused by poor Mexicans looking for work. And that's a whole other complex issue with no easy solution.
3) Criminals and Taxes: Lets say becoming a legal resident was as easy as walking across the border and submitting to a background check. You'd find 99% of the illegal traffic would dry up and so would the whole human trafficking infrastructure on the border. But as I said, it's complex. Is that a solution you're willing to consider?
4) Devastated communities: This is more an issue of poverty than immigration. (Although language barriers, I admit, hurt) Communities like the one I grew up in have a hard time getting enough funding for schools, and kids of migrant workers were never in the same school more than a few months. But that's related to poverty more than immigration. I'd argue that we provide services like school for our benefit as much as for theirs.
5) Capitalist vs Theocratist: Why would you say "most theocratists are capitalists?" My definition of (the made up word) "theocratist" is someone whose primary goals are to see laws based on their religion. This has very little to do with being a capitalist, or one whose main profession is to provide capital to businesses. Basically, it was my cutesy way of saying that over immigration, the "leave me alone so I can enrich myself" constituency has a different take on immigration than the "God's on my side and he hates you" constituency.

I do need to write a post talking about potential solutions, even though I think the issue (while real) is made up of manufactured anger meant to distract us from more presing issues, like the economy, the environment, and global antipathy towards the US

Ben said...

Your ancestors came here, and when they go here they signed various documents stating such. Big difference from sneaking over the border and living off the grid.

Stop looking for racism under every hole. I don't have a problem with Hispanics, not does anyone I know who doesn't like illegal immigration. I'd feel the same way if millions of white Jewish boys were sneaking across the border.

You just can comprehend that someone might feel differently than you without being racist. Sounds like someone needs to open their mind to other thoughts.

The laws need to be enforced. That means stopping illegals from crossing the border, and punishing employers for hiring them. If you don't like that, get the law changed. Until then, enforce it.