Immigration – and Immigrants – Deserve Better

12 Jul

I am a loss to understand why a shrinking region struggling just to maintain its current population numbers is so bloody concerned over illegal immigration. WBEN demogogued the issue during the entire morning news today, and the whiny, phony parallels attempted to be drawn between Arizona and New York as border states were as appalling as they were weak.

First, let’s turn to the Arizona immigration law that the Federal Government has sued to strike down as an unconstitutional state usurpation of federal power to set and create immigration policy.

Two things have been brainlessly repeated without a smidgen of balance on local talk radio in Buffalo. The Arizona statute in question gives state law enforcement the power to demand – upon “reasonable suspicion” of undocumented status – that anyone present their papers to prove their identity and legal right to be present in the United States. Although racial profiling is expressly prohibited by the bill, it’s not shocking or deniable that this law is targeted squarely at Latinos. Arizona is rightfully petrified that the drug wars that have rendered Mexico an almost failed state might escalate on this side of the border.

Proponents of the law, when confronted with the fact that “papers, please” has not generally been used positively in the American vernacular, retort that legal immigrants must carry their visas or Green Cards with them at all times.

But citizens don’t. (That includes you, Puerto Ricans). Because this law in its implementation would specifically target one particular ethnic group at the exclusion of all others, and because it unfairly requires some US citizens – Latinos – to carry their passports or other proof of legal status in the US on them at all times, but not others, I believe it to be unconstitutional on equal protection grounds, as well as federal supremacy grounds.

But to hear our local talk radio goons describe it, bingo-playing grannies get harassed at the Peace Bridge whilst Mexicans on the southern border are untouchable due to liberal bleeding-heartism. Have any of these cretins tried to cross a Mexican border post ever? In the last 10 years? The major border crossings into Mexico, and especially into the US are horrifically backed-up all the time. The scrutiny given to inbound motor vehicles at the southern border makes the trip in and out of Canada seem like a run through an EZ-Pass booth. And yes, you must present the same types of ID in El Paso as you do in Niagara Falls. The difference is that most of the Arizona – Mexico border has no natural boundaries and is an arbitrary construct of treaty. You don’t get a lot of swimmers from Canada into the US because the Niagara River is wide and has a nasty current.

But to compare our situation in WNY to the situation in Arizona is simply idiotic for another major reason. Canada isn’t a third world backwater with wave after wave of economic refugees swarming into, say, Buffalo for our wonderful Frank Lloyd Wright homes and chicken wings. And the reason why we treat the occasional bingo-playing granny to long lines at the border have to do with the fact that there is a distinct history of jihadist terrorists using the US-CDN crossing as a low-key entry point.

No, Tom. Sorry, Sandy. Regrets, Dave. Comparisons of legal border crossings at WNY bridges to illegal crossings in Arizona is so patently stupid and improper that I question your intelligence and that of anyone who agrees with you.

And chances are, the Bauerles, Pesolas, and DiPietros of yesteryear most likely came to the United States as economic immigrants – they came to this country to find their fortunes, or at least a better life. Oh, they’ll undoubtedly self-righteously proclaim that their ancestors came to this country as legal immigrants, as if the situation at the turn of the last century was somehow even vaguely analogous to that at the most recent turn of century.

During the time of Ellis Island, there was no such thing as applying for an entry visa at a US consulate abroad. Immigrants would come to the US on boats and basically apply on the spot for legal entry. If they weren’t mentally or physically disabled, chances were they’d be allowed to stay in the US. Our immigration laws throughout history have oftentimes been little more than shameful cesspools of racism and eugenics, aimed to control not so much numbers, but specific numbers of particular origin. But at the time of Ellis Island’s heyday, European immigrants could literally hop a boat and take their chances.

Such irony, to hear descendants of German or Italian immigrants heap scorn on a contemporary influx of refugees from our own hemisphere, who have overwhelmingly come here for the same economic reasons. Why is 2010’s Mr. Velazquez any more or less deserving of an American Dream than 1910’s Mr. DiPietro? Are Mexicans and Central Americans somehow unworthy or undeserving of the same opportunities as Poles or Italians were a century ago?

And let’s not forget that if every single illegal alien in this country was deported overnight, there would suddenly be a large vacuum of available menial jobs. You going to take it? Is your kid going to interrupt his WoW session to earn $7.25/hour cleaning toilets and sweeping streets?

Comprehensive immigration reform that resets the rules to reflect contemporary reality is what’s needed to help move this forward. We in this country are so focused on migrant laborers, that we ignore the fact that our idiotic visa policies help keep brilliant scientists out of this country, and they go to places like Canada, which welcomes them with open arms, opportunity, and free medical.

When the economy goes south, you can be sure that the weak-minded will take advantage of the afflicted, and reassure them that the fault lies not with a housing crash or credit default swaps gone bad, but they instead release that genie of subtly racist xenophobia that still seems to be socially acceptable in the US, and blame the Mexicans.

17 Responses to “Immigration – and Immigrants – Deserve Better”

  1. Brian Castner July 12, 2010 at 3:40 pm #

    Honest question: what is the penalty for a citizen (Latino or white as the newly driven snow) not having their proof of citizenship if stopped? Am I hauled down to the station until I find my papers? Am I throw in debtor’s prison until I can pay my debt? I am much less offended by this law if allows for enforcement of current immigration law (i.e. green card holders and aliens must carry papers as already prescribed by law) someone without harrassing current legal Latino citizens.

    BTW, to your last point in your last paragraph – in some border states, for some time there has been a rise in KKK membership by blacks, because Latinos are becoming the prefered target of that group.

    • Brian Castner July 12, 2010 at 3:43 pm #

      That’s “somehow” without harrassing. . . .

    • Jon Splett July 12, 2010 at 4:02 pm #

      Calling bullshit on a ‘rise in black membership in the KKK’

      Really would love to see a source on that because it screams ‘baseless Glenn Beck talking point’

      You’re aware that Chapelle’s Show bit with the black, blind racist was comedy right?

      • Brian Castner July 12, 2010 at 4:13 pm #

        Source is a State Detective assigned to the Joint Terrorism Task Force for Oklahoma, who worked on breaking up white supremist groups. We were part of a Terrorism lecture series at OSU for my Master’s program. Info is a couple years old now, though I would expect it has become more true, not less. The choice to believe or disbelieve is yours, though I certainly did not get it from Glenn Beck.

    • Alan Bedenko July 12, 2010 at 4:06 pm #

      My understanding is that if a police officer is confronted with an individual whom he has a reasonable suspicion of being undocumented, that person can be detained until such time as the officer is satisfied of the person’s immigration status.

      That means a natural born citizen of Mexican or Puerto Rican descent can be unlawfully detained for a period of time before he can, e.g., fish out a passport or birth certificate. I know that proponents of this law were trying to make it seem as if a driver’s license could be enough, but frankly a license isn’t proof of legal status. You can be a US citizen and hold a foreign DL, and vice-versa.

      Also, it doesn’t matter if you or anyone else is offended by the law or not. It’s unconstitutional on at least one, probably two, grounds. A 100% approval rating for that law wouldn’t make it any more or less legal.

      I did a cursory Google search to look up your claim that black people have been joining a white supremacist movement that believes black people to be animals and not human, and was unable to find any such information. Indeed, you wrote that there has a been a “rise” in black KKK membership, implying that there had been “any” previously. Perhaps you have a link?

      • Brian Castner July 12, 2010 at 4:20 pm #

        My issue with the law is that the “probable cause” for an officer to ask for your papers must be racial profiling, unless one can think of another way to suspect immigration status. So, is the law better if implemented through 100% ID checkpoint, like a sobriety check on weekends looking for drunk drivers?

        I understand my offense is not an issue – it was a figure of speech. I personally think the law is unconstitutional based on due process reasons, not supremacy. Arizona is not setting national immigration policy – it is attempting to find a new way to enforce existing policy. The whole thing is a moot point – it has already succeeded at its main goal – putting the issue back on the agenda at the national level.

      • Brian Castner July 12, 2010 at 4:29 pm #

        Oh, the answer to your last questions is “Its the economy stupid.” The KKK in Oklahoma is focusing on jobs, and that dirty subhuman Latinos are taking jobs from upstanding white folk. Its a message that resonated with blacks as well – the enemy of my enemy is my friend.

        As a refferenced a above, the detective I talked to worked on taking down these guys: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Covenant,_The_Sword,_and_the_Arm_of_the_Lord

        Due to the number of white supremacists in OK, not to mention Timmy McVeigh, I’ve always found those guys professional and quite competent.

  2. lefty July 12, 2010 at 4:13 pm #

    Why is 2010’s Mr. Velazquez any more or less deserving of an American Dream than 1910’s Mr. DiPietro? Are Mexicans and Central Americans somehow unworthy or undeserving of the same opportunities as Poles or Italians were a century ago?

    If you are going to compare immigration like this, we should discuss the differences between what was found after Mr. DiPietro passed through Ellis Island to what Mr. Velazquez finds after passing through San Ysidro.

    In 1910, there were not Food Stamps or Welfare as a fall back for Mr. DiPietro. If Mr. DiPietro came with children, there was not Polish or Italian instruction in the public schools. Mr. DiPietro and other immigrants took a much bigger ‘chance’ in coming to America 100 years ago compared to today.

    Put it another way. If you are having a BYOB party and all you are supplying is music and ice, you are going to much less selective on your guest list compared to throwing a dinner party with food and an open bar.

    The reality is Mexicans and Central Americans are not given the same opportunities as Poles or Italians were a century ago. You can not close the border and you can not stop immigration. The US thrives on being a melting pot of cultures and ideas.

    A workable solution would be to modify the H-1b, H-2a, H-2b, ect. visa programs so that they make sense for all involved. Allow immigrants to come to the US on a temporary basis but make it very easy for them to stay once they can assimilate into the system without causing too much of a burden. I know that is harsh but so is the guest list for a wedding..unless you are going to do it BYOB style.

  3. Ward July 12, 2010 at 4:42 pm #

    According to a Gallup poll taken July 7, independent voters nationwide oppose the Obama/Holder lawsuit against Arizona’s immigration policy by a margin of 56% to 27%.
    No word on how many of those polled had been “demogoged” by Susan Rose and Dave Debo on WBEN AM.

    • Alan Bedenko July 12, 2010 at 6:45 pm #

      I know, I know. The Republicans suddenly advocate for leadership by poll.

      • Ward July 12, 2010 at 10:50 pm #

        Obamma/Holder’s toxic lawsuit will make one poll very interesting for you folks–the one on Nov. 2. (Along with his promised unemployment rate of no more than 8%, his “stimulus”, Obamacare, cap and tax, etc.)

      • STEEL July 13, 2010 at 10:50 am #

        I know – bring back the Bush unemployment rate.

  4. Mike In WNY July 12, 2010 at 8:59 pm #

    Arizona’s law does not permit random immigration status checks or checks just because someone “looks like an alien”. It permits the officers to check the status, upon reasonable suspicion, after lawful contact has been initiated for other reasons.

    FOR ANY LAWFUL CONTACT MADE BY A LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICIAL OR AGENCY
    21 OF THIS STATE OR A COUNTY, CITY, TOWN OR OTHER POLITICAL SUBDIVISION OF THIS
    22 STATE WHERE REASONABLE SUSPICION EXISTS THAT THE PERSON IS AN ALIEN WHO IS
    23 UNLAWFULLY PRESENT IN THE UNITED STATES, A REASONABLE ATTEMPT SHALL BE MADE,
    24 WHEN PRACTICABLE, TO DETERMINE THE IMMIGRATION STATUS OF THE PERSON. THE
    25 PERSON’S IMMIGRATION STATUS SHALL BE VERIFIED WITH THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT
    26 PURSUANT TO 8 UNITED STATES CODE SECTION 1373(c).

    • STEEL July 13, 2010 at 10:50 am #

      Give me an example of reasonable suspicion.

  5. vicky July 12, 2010 at 10:09 pm #

    It seems to me that many of the incidents of violence that many people in Arizona are upset by and keep pointing out as a reason for the new law is due to a drug war not illegal immigration. I think those two distinct issues get mixed together too often. IMHO….

  6. Jesse July 13, 2010 at 9:14 am #

    Hear hear, Alan.

    There have always been anti-immigrant groups around. Back in the Ellis Island heyday, the Irish, Dutch and British who were already here didn’t want anything to do with the daygo’s, etc. And before that, the English and Dutch hated the Irish, treating them like dirt while they built the Erie Canal (Canal Water and Whiskey – great book on the subject).

  7. Hank July 13, 2010 at 5:06 pm #

    My ancestors left their eastern european shit-hole with what they could pack and carry aboard ship. And they took their chances on being sent back as unacceptable. They made the grade.

    There would be no need for AZ to pass any laws if the Feds were doing their job.

    Just call it what the hell it is—get every illegal immigrant here so the Dem’s can pass amnesty before they are thrown out of office in November, so 12 million illegales will worship and vote for democratic candidates. The rhetoric will change from “The Republicans will take away your Medicare” to

    “The Republicans will deport every one of you”.
    Personally, since we have large military bases standing empty, we should just start rounding them up till there’s a big bunch of them, and deport them in the back of semi trailers—-lots of them came in that way, so they’re used to it.

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