The Great Immigration Swindle
Here is the key passage in Sam Roberts' NY Times article for my purposes today:
With Mr. Spitzer's political capital depleted and the governor hardly eager to embark on another unpopular crusade
By "unpopular crusade," I'm speculating that Roberts
primarily means Spitzer's attempt to fulfill a campaign promise to reinstate
Hillary Clinton's recent dip in the polls ahead of the primaries has also been attributed by many to her "gaffe" on the same subject in a debate a couple months ago.
Political capital is ineffable and notoriously volatile. Much of a politician's room to maneuver
depends on which narrative our media gatekeepers decide is suitable for
consumption by the masses. Those
gatekeepers are often easily misled as to the prevailing temper of the
public--witness the "Village's" continuing support
for the War in
This ongoing disjunction between reality and media narrative has not arisen organically--it has several causes, among them: fear of being labeled soft on national security, fear of being caught by surprise again after 9/11, ignorance of the substantive details of the issues at hand, weariness of being tagged with the now-pejorative "liberal" label, coziness with power brokers in government and business who profit from the machinery of war, and simple groupthink.
I propose that savvy conservative activists have perpetuated a similar con on the gatekeepers: the Great Immigration Swindle. Through a decades-long coordinated effort, groups calling for more restrictive immigration policies, or "restrictionists" for short, have positioned a media narrative once considered racist and extreme as fully mainstream.
Here are the component parts of the Swindle:
The Con: There is
a groundswell of popular public sentiment oozing up through the grassroots
(someone should alert the EPA) demanding stricter border enforcement, lower
numbers of immigrant visas issued each year, construction of a massive wall on
the Southern (not the Northern) border, mandatory employment verification, and
an absolute prohibition on the Scarlet "A" (for "Amnesty").
The Reality: Curiously, these are the exact points advocated by restrictionist outfits like FAIR and CIS. Curiouserly, these organizations provide action alerts on key issues for adherents to blanket politicians with phone calls, faxes, emails, and letters, whether or not the caller is a constituent of that politician. These were the tactics that worked so effectively to bring down the immigration bill last year and to bully Spitzer and Clinton--politicians not easily cowed on other issues--into publicly reversing their positions at great political cost.
Now, this is arguably simply part of the democratic
process. There is nothing wrong with
urging voters to become more politically involved--in fact, the lack of civic
involvement among Our Youth™ is perennially lamented across the political
spectrum. But the idea with these
tactics is to provide the appearance of a mass movement whether or not the
movement is as substantial as it claims to be.
There is quite a bit of evidence that it is not, as wide majorities of the public supported each of the major planks of the
defeated comprehensive reform bill of 2007, a bill that was anathema to
The Con: "Illegal alien," "illegal immigrant," "illegal immigration," or just "illegals" are all acceptable terms of discourse; in fact, they are the only accurate descriptors for a class of people whose very existence is illicit and breeds contempt for the law. For example:
- Illegal means illegal.
- What part of illegal don't you understand?
- Simply: Illegals!!!!!!!
The Reality: From a
legal perspective, the term "illegal alien" is today nowhere to be found in the Immigration
and Nationality Act (INA), which is the
It's a legally meaningless term under immigration law in the
The Con: Advocates of immigration restrictions are colorblind, not racist, in fact it's the ethnocentrist Hispanics and fellow travelers who are racist, and you're a racist for intimating that someone so colorblind, who has stated loudly (and IN ALL CAPS) more than once or twice that he is not racist but you have somehow not gotten the picture, ethnocentrist UN-loving One-World fellow traveler that you are--like I was saying, advocates of a tough border policy don't care which brown-skinned, black-hair-having, foreign-language-speaking miscontented malcreants try to slip across the border to mow our lawns or blow themselves up in our shopping malls, they want them all locked up, shipped out, and categorically denied entry.
One concerned citizen recently demonstrated his admirable refusal to distinguish between people of different races:
I can't tell Jose Cuervo from the Al Qaeda operatives by looking at them, because they cut their beard off. It's like trying to get fly manure out of pepper without your glasses on, you know? I mean, not a racist thing, but they're all brown with black hair and they don't speak English and I don't speak Arabic or Spanish, so if they don't belong here and they don't come here legally, I want to know who's here.
Ha! He's a veritable Steven Colbert . . . who, incidentally, exemplifies the laudable objective inability to discern racial characteristics so common among restrictionists:
"Now, I don't see race ... People tell me I'm white, and I believe them, because I own a lot of Jimmy Buffett albums." He later qualified this statement in his book, stating, "When I say I don't see race, I mean I don't see Black people. But I can spot a Mexican at a hundred paces."
The Reality: Indeed,
it turns out that restrictionists do get particularly incensed about Mexicans,
due to Mexico's proactive use of consular privileges and the existence of unjust social
conditions at home. Or something. See if you can make sense of it here, here,
here, or here. I've tried and failed
many times--after wading through more of this stuff than I care to admit, it
seems that the most salient facts are that most Mexican immigrants are poor,
have brown skin, and speak Spanish. If
this is our brave new colorblind world, I'm afraid it's not very colorblind at
The Con: Border security is sacrosanct--a variant of "national security," politicians and candidates must pledge allegiance to the inviolability of our border (singular because it's the Southern border, not so much the Northern one, that matters here) before anything further can be said on the subject of immigration. Think of it as the duty of the father of a teenage daughter to swear to the sanctity of her virginity--none shall enter!--all available evidence and the historical experience of a thousand million teenagers to the contrary.
The Reality: Restrictionists
are not primarily concerned with security; otherwise, they would support
allowing immigrants to obtain state IDs and other legal documents, which would
allow them to participate more openly in daily life in
The Con: The problem is not that we need new laws, it's that the ones we have aren't being enforced.
The Reality: Restrictionists are trying to pass new laws all the time (pdf)--just more restrictive ones that don't lead to 12 million people finding their way out of the legal twilight in which they live.
In addition, the government is implementing new punitive regulations and policies under the radar without going through the legislative process, by, for instance:
- Raising fees to punitive levels, creating a huge naturalization adjudication backlog just as an unprecedented voter registration effort is underway before an election year. The upshot is that many potential new voters likely to support candidates in favor of comprehensive immigration reform will probably not be able to vote in the primaries, and possibly not in the general election, either.
- Requiring green cards issued decades ago with no expiration date to be renewed at the applicant's expense (pdf) and in a timeframe that virtually ensures many longtime permanent residents will fall out of compliance and end up filling some ICE officer's monthly deportation quota.
Furthermore, the government is not all that interested in workplace enforcement, which would disproportionately impact small business owners (just try making your way through the paperwork required to sponsor an immigrant worker if you run a pizzeria or a dry cleaner) and likely be politically unsustainable, jeopardizing other immigration initiatives (principally the one to deport as many immigrants as possible).
The Con: Restrictionists have no problem with legal immigration, just with illegal immigration.
The Reality: For most unskilled workers, legal immigration is a practical impossibility. As Duke from Migra Matters pointed out:
147 new un-skilled workers without
UScitizen or legal resident family already here were allowed to enter the last year legally and receive green cards. US
147 out of 1,266,264.
In addition, restrictionists do have a problem with admitting skilled workers through the H-1B visa program, which is capped at such a low level that the annual quota was exhausted last year in a single day. Restrictionists want to keep H-1B visa availability at the current unreasonably low level.
The Con: Immigrants commit more crimes than the general public.
The Reality: Immigrants commit significantly fewer crimes than the general public, which makes sense when you consider that they can be deported for shoplifting--literally. (Note the crossover of the usefully vague and undefinable "moral turpitude" standard from old Jim Crow laws to current immigration law.)
In sum, these are a few of the falsehoods perpetuated by restrictionists in the media today that warp perspective and thwart legislative efforts to fix our problematic immigration system. But the current media ground was carefully laid over many years by a coordinated and motivated group of activists. It will not be dismantled overnight.
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TODAY, one friend of mine breaks down How to Erode and Destroy Democracy which calmly bullet-points many factors in and contributors to our declining culture, while another friend breaks down The Great Immigration Swindle—which debunks the con be... Read More