Thursday, April 13, 2006
Those Huddled Masses Still Yearn To Breathe Free
I recently discovered (via PZ Myers' Pharyngula) Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez's blog, La Queen Sucia, and this post about facts vs. myths regarding illegal immigration. I can't confirm all the details and statistics she cites, but it is certainly worth a read to put the issue into perspective.
Reading her post reminded me of a Simpsons episode that addressed this very issue (that originally aired almost 10 years ago, on May 5, 1996). In the episode, Much Apu About Nothing, Springfield's Mayor Quimby needs as issue to distract the voters from his administration's financial mismanagement. He picks, rather arbitrarily, illegal immigration:
[An angry crowd has gathered outside Mayor Quimby's office to complain about the recent tax hike. Quimby and his aides are discussing the problem behind closed doors.]
Quimby: Are these morons getting dumber or just louder?
Assistant: [checks his clipboard] Dumber, sir. They won't give up the bear patrol, but they won't pay taxes for it either.
Quimby: [thoughtfully] Ducking this issue calls for real leadership.
[The mayor exits his office to address the angry crowd of citizens.]
Quimby: People! Your taxes are high because of illegal immigrants! That's right, illegal immigrants! We need to get rid of them!
[The angry crowd calms a bit and starts muttering.]
Moe the Bartender: Immigants! [sic] I knew it was them! Even when it was the bears, I knew it was them!
Helen Lovejoy, wife of the pastor: [hysterically] Ohhh, won't somebody *please* think of the children!
Quimby: In one week the town will vote on a special referendum whether or not to deport all illegal immigrants from Springfield. It shall be known as Proposition 24.
[The crowd (including Mayor Quimby) erupts into cheers]
Now, I'm not trying to claim that illegal immigration is a non-problem, or that we don't have problems with the current immigration laws in the US. But what I do see as pretty blatant is that we have some politicians using illegal immigration as a wedge issue to distract voters from the bigger problems in our government (coincidentally caused by the policies of those same politicians). Additionally, I see the immigration issue being used as a scapegoat for all US economic problems. That Simpsons episode demonstrates and satirizes these tactics quite nicely.
I think it's pretty unrealistic to think that we can build a magic wall around the US to keep "undesirables" out, or that immigrants (legal or illegal) of today are somehow of a different breed than those of previous generations, and that they don't contribute to America like previous waves of immigrants did.
I don't claim to be very knowledgeable about this issue, so I'll point you to journalist David Neiwert's blog and a recent post about proposed solutions to US illegal immigration problems. I think he provides a more reasonable approach than what is being offered by our politicians. Also, check out a short comment that Andrew Sullivan recently made on the topic.
As a nation that is mostly composed of the descendants of immigrants, we should be smarter about welcoming and incorporating new arrivals and helping to put them on the path towards citizenship.