Open Borders or Welfare State: Pick One

The New York Times has decided that opposition to illegal immigration has to be based in race hatred. It couldn’t possibly be based in anything else:

Think of America’s greatest historical shames. Most have involved the singling out of groups of people for abuse. Name a distinguishing feature — skin color, religion, nationality, language — and it’s likely that people here have suffered unjustly for it, either through the freelance hatred of citizens or as a matter of official government policy.

We are heading down this road again. The country needs to have a working immigration policy, one that corresponds to economic realities and is based on good sense and fairness. But it doesn’t. It has federal inertia and a rising immigrant tide, and a national mood of frustration and anxiety that is slipping, as it has so many times before, into hatred and fear. Hostility for illegal immigrants falls disproportionately on an entire population of people, documented or not, who speak Spanish and are working-class or poor. By blinding the country to solutions, it has harmed us all.

The evidence can be seen in any state or town that has passed constitutionally dubious laws to deny undocumented immigrants the basics of living, like housing or the right to gather or to seek work. It’s in hot lines for citizens to turn in neighbors. It’s on talk radio and blogs. It’s on the campaign trail, where candidates are pressed to disown moderate positions. And it can be heard nearly every night on CNN, in the nativist drumming of Lou Dobbs, for whom immigration is an obsessive cause.

Of course, this doesn’t come as a particular surprise to me. Making it a race problem, or an ethnicity problem is the easy way to argue their case. It is an old tried and true template which, just as the NYT does, harkens back to darker periods of our history. But playing that card ignores the real problems that illegal immigration bring to this country.

I don’t disagree with the call for a solution. I don’t disagree with those who claim we need to streamline the system or those calling for a vastly better “guest worker” program. I don’t have a problem with letting in more legal immigrants than we do now. I have no problem with immigrants or their race, nationality or religion, quite frankly. It just doesn’t matter to me. What does matter is control of the process because as the title of the post suggests, otherwise we’re headed for a train wreck.

I don’t want 12 to 20 million people to have to hide in the shadows. OTOH, I don’t want those 12 to 20 million people using facilities and benefits paid for by legal immigrants and citizens. And while I sympathize with them and their desire to better their lives, the situation they find themselves in and their willingness to accept both skilled and unskilled work at rock bottom prices has effected the wage scales. I don’t begrudge them their wages but I also don’t pretend that they have no effect. I don’t consider them criminals, but I also don’t think they should be here because they are a drain on our system.

None of those concerns has a thing to do with their race, their nationality or their religion. The “they” I speak of could just as easily be white English protestants as brown Mexican catholics. What they are is irrelevant to the effect they have.

If we weren’t taxed and required to support very expensive social programs, I wouldn’t have a problem in the world (other than security) with “open borders”. I’d welcome those who wish to come here peacefully and find work. And I’ll say again, one of the things we need to do and do quickly is implement such a system which makes that a reality.

But I am sick and tired of those like the NYT who claim opposition to illegal immigration is latent (and not so latent) racism and that is all. It’s a shallow and thoughtless analysis which denies the complexity of the situation for pat and easy answers which allow those making them to demonize the opposition. I’d like to say such nonsense is unworthy of the New York Times, but anymore, that’s a claim I just can’t make.

Originally published at QandO. Please come visit us.

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