Brittney’s asking all kinds of immigration related questions over at NiT and David Oatney’s hollering about how “The feds are supposed to enforce immigration law and protect us from foreign invasion, which this influx of illegal aliens certainly is.”
Y’all, nonsense like this makes me have to put my head down on my desk. Just for a minute, just until it clears.
America, from 1535 to 1821, this was the vice-royalty of New Spain. Please take a look and see just how much of the current United States was covered by this. Everyone who was living in this area at that time was, by definition, as a subject of Spain, Spanish. In fact, your family could have been sitting in St. Louis and been French, Spanish, French again, and then United-States-ian all without ever leaving your home.
My point is that, while people from Mexico can certainly be in this country illegally, calling them ‘foreigners’ seems to me to be so intellectually dishonest as to cause me a headache. That a man from Juarez and a man from Dubuque are from two different countries now is a fluke of history. These are not people who are foreign to us. These are people whose histories are entwined with ours and have been since 1492.
Also, yes, there are actual bad guys who mean folks harm coming over from Mexico illegally, but by and large, the folks who come here are unarmed civilians who are just looking for work and a better quality of life. Calling them a foreign invasion makes you look like some kind of histrionic reactionary who doesn’t actually understand what an invasion is.
Listen, I’m a bleeding heart liberal. I’m always going to stand with the downtrodden against the powerful*. The thing that bothers me about illegal immigration is that we, as a country, seem to want to put all of the blame on illegal immigrants. Let’s round them up and ship them off to detention camps in Louisiana. Let’s have the cops check them against a database every time they pop up on the radar of the police. Let’s continue to use language that makes it seem like illegal immigrants are dirty, disease-ridden vermin who are invading our country and ruining it.
And all this does is make it harder and harder for undocumented workers to receive anything like justice. As long as their employers know they’re here illegally, those employers own them. They can pay them whatever they like and do with them what they like, because, should they be found out, the unbearable cost of being separated from their families is on the workers, not on the businesses that hire them.
This level of immigration reform ought to be so damn easy. If you are here illegally, you should be given a chance to rectify that. Come forward, prove you’re contributing to society (either because you have a job or because you’re raising a family), get in the system, make restitution of some sort, pay some damn fines, and get right with the government.
And yet, our overwhelming desire for vengeance–How dare these folks sneak in here and steal our jobs?–prevents us from dealing compassionately with people who are here because we have jobs for them.
It should be on corporations to not hire illegal immigrants. If that’s the law, that’s the law. And if they can’t police themselves and if the feds won’t, the solution is not to turn around and punish the folks who just want a job.
My point is that we keep acting like these people, who work with us, who worship with us, who eat with us, who drink at our bars, whose kids go to school with our kids, are not like us, that they’re “foreign” and invasive. But they are us; they are here with us; they share history with us.
Fearing them as a horde is intellectually dishonest and doesn’t actually advance any discussion about immigration reform.
*I hope. Who knows? Maybe I’ll get a little power someday and embarrass myself with my rapid descent into corporatism.