Graciousness, Policy And The Arizona Immigration Controversy

As I have expressed before, I think at this time in history, Americans have bigger problems than immigration. Immigration is an important issue. But right now, others are GIGANTIC! Immigration handled poorly could mean trouble, and does. Life, liberty, and fiscal policy handled poorly can spell the ruination of America, which is in progress. Still, I think there are considerations about illegal immigration that we ought to apply both in this case and generally relative to policy. Since it’s funny and I don’t know where to put it, let me say this before I begin. Three times in three different places inside an hour, I heard reports that Arizona’s new law “makes it against the law to be illegal.” Huh? And, they said this without a snicker or even batting an eye. As you may know, I’m not an enforcement only proponent, though it is an outrage that the law is a joke. But, these reports illustrate about as plainly as could be, how crazy our behavior has been.

I’m sure I have mentioned that I studied philosophy in college, appropriate to my eccentric lifetime preoccupation with analyzing human society and behavior. The older I get, the clearer it is as many have wondered, how weird this propensity is. But, I also studied Bible and theology in college. If you get past the silly question of the appropriateness and relevance of that information, which never troubled me, you can easily find how complete the lessons conveyed in scripture are to situations we regularly face in life. So it is here. At bottom, all political questions are about right and wrong. Even while saying silly things like “you can’t legislate morality” or insisting on “the separation of church and state,” which they don’t understand and is not in The Constitution, even the left will present all of its policy proposals in terms of what they say is right and wrong, and quite naturally so. So consider an example from that deep treasure of human instruction.

In I Corinthians, Paul discusses the relative relevance of knowledge versus love in application to life. Particularly if not balanced with consideration for others, otherwise relevant knowledge can shrink to arrogance: “Knowledge puffs up…Love builds up.” Relative to whether Christians ought eat meat that has been sacrificed to idols, Paul said, (paraphrasing) we know that idols are nothing and we aren’t hurt personally by what we eat but what we say and do. However, if someone else is hurt by your action, you should not eat it, for their sake. For their sake: now there’s a strange concept in today’s world.

I remember discussing this in 2000 relative to an issue that arose in the South Carolina Republican primary. There was a question about whether the Confederate flag should be left to fly outside the capitol and courthouse. Applying Paul’s instruction, I agree that it necessarily implies nothing for South Carolinians to honor their ancestors who fought under that flag. They can even argue that a priority was the protection of the state from federal intrusion more than the defense of slavery, if they like. However, applying Paul’s consideration for others, whatever innocence they feel about that and however others came to see the flag as emblematic of slavery, they do and that perception is particularly scandalous and injurious to South Carolina’s many blacks. I said for the sake of their feelings and unity, put the flag in a museum and reverence it there.

Now, in Arizona, let me first say that I think the whole offense at “profiling” is dopey, and always have. Never mind that I don’t anymore, but if I were driving down the highway through an area that had had a lot of trouble from a 6’2” white brunette man (never mind that my hair’s graying fast), and the police pulled me over to ID me and ask a few questions, if I don’t like it, that’s tough. Solving crime is more important than inconveniencing me a little bit. Sure, I know all about the “driving while black” offense and abusive police should be reported and dealt with. But anytime there is pursuit of criminals, there is a description. If you fit it, you might be slightly inconvenienced. Identify yourself, be cool and cooperative and be sent on your way as quickly as possible. Of course, we also deal with this question in airports now. And our dopey dread of giving offense makes us waste time and resources frisking and searching the belongings of 85 year-old grandmothers from Peoria.

So legal Hispanics shouldn’t fret a little inconvenience of identifying themselves. But, we are already seeing that many do take offense. So A) is it gracious to give it, and B) is it wise to dampen what could be a historic Republican wave in this year’s elections? (News flash: Mexicans like healthy economies too.) To both questions, I say “No.” Maybe with his law-enforcement experience, Lauro Garza might have suggestions about controlling the violence spilling over the border and protecting innocent Americans?

At bottom of course, is the fear among illegal immigrants of being nabbed and summarily deported. And, the problem is our laws. The U.S. used to take in immigrants fairly freely, including decades ago, seasonal migrant Mexican workers. The problems started when we “closed” the borders, by which I mean making migrants “illegal.” And the other problems are all of our national social policies and labor laws. People take free services because they are free! It’s the services that are the problem, not the people. And other than child labor laws, labor laws are dumb. Work compensation and benefits should be offered based on open competition. This is just one more place where I hope to soon see states asserting their freedom from federal dictation. “Criminals” looking for work and pay are not the same as criminals who prey on other people and should just be put in jail.

In my dreams, Texas borders would not be “closed” at all, and predators both native and immigrant would find Texas police and rangers very unpleasant to deal with. And, the federal government would have no say in the matter.


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