i hadn't planned to write about the immigration stuff, and have several other topics on my blog-list, but yesterday i made a comment on facebook about arizona's law and a friend posted back with a relevant question: do i think we should open the borders and simply let anyone come in? when i tried to answer, i realized it was too complex to confine to a facebook 'news' comment, so here it is.....
there's just so much to this question, and much of it rooted in history--in multiple histories. so i'm trying to discuss it in several different parts.
1. since history is so crucial, i need to start on the most practical premise. whatever the govt does -- and i'm trying to avoid here the 'we' that implies all of us make these decisions. 'we' don't. the government, the rich, the corporations, they make the functional decisions. they make the laws. 'we' get to vote on some of the things they do, or which of them represents and enforces the laws. so whatever the government does, this is 2010, and the US is a rich superpower, which will make laws, many of which must be made and all of which will be obeyed by most of us, out of belief in the righteousness of 'law' or out of 'patriotism' or out of belief in a specific law or, i suspect most commonly, out of lethargy and/or cowardice. but laws will exist, and to whatever extent 'we the people' can affect them, we need to consider them in any practical effort to deal with situation they involve. thus the question becomes not whether there should be laws against illegal immigration, but what laws might be the most helpful to the people they impact on. what then makes the arizona law the best, the worst, or whatever?
2]the arizona law stinks. as most progressives have noted, it is racist. giving the governor the benefit of the doubt, let's say she truly doesn't mean it to be racist. okay, it's a large benefit of a large doubt, but i'm willing to let her have it.
but that doesn't make it any the less racist. the fact is that the particular illegal immigrants involved in this question are not flying in from denmark. i would be willing to bet that if this law passes, not a single blue-eyed blond will be stopped by the police, unless she's traveling with a dark-skinned friend. they will be looking for mexicans, who tend to be darker skinned than euro-americans. they will be dark skinned regardless of their immigration status, which means that legal immigrants and their offspring will be harrassed and will be forced to carry documentation with them at all times. this is only a step or 2 removed from 'colored' toilets and water fountains. it inherently applies only to people who look like they might be mexican. this will involve not only hispanic people, whatever their status is, but pakistanis, indians, people from the near- or mid-eastern countries, native americans, and [ironically] lighter skinned african americans. since the police have nothing else to go on , they will have only their own visual judgement t determine who looks like they might be illegal. whatever their individual beleifs, the police will either have to enforce racism or risk losing their jobs.
3]whatever ends up being done legally, it will have to be hypocrical. the history of the US is a history of illegal immigrants--or of immigrants that would have been illegal if the Native Americans had anticipated what would happen to them. europeans came to the americas to escape poverty, imprisonment, the rigid class systems of their homelands. they were the 'tired, the poor,' the 'huddled masses yearning to breathe free.' they were the equivalent of the mexicans trying to cross our borders. that alone should highlight the built-in hypocracy of any current anti-immigration policies.
then consider what these tired/poor/freedom-yearning invaders did; they took over the land, expelled and/or massacred the people already there, destroying in the process the social organizations that had existed on this land for centuries.
4] finally, as each new wave of immigrants came here, the descendants of those early disenfranchised europeans used them for cheap labor, persecuted them, eventually more or less absorbed them into the dominant culture [i'm leaving out here that vast company of unwilling 'immigrants,' the african slaves, who as we know were treated even worse than the desperately willing arrivals.] i'm not suggesting our history is worse than other countries' in that sense. historically, you come to a new country either as an immigrant, in which case you'll be treated as a second class citizen or worse, or as an invader, in which case you get to do the oppressing. there aren't many pretty pictures here.
5] so back to point 1. immigrants from poorer countries have come to the US, and will continue to do so. Laws will be made to make sure this is done legally and in limited numbers. such laws are necessary if the majority of us, or at least of the non-poor among us, are to go on living our more comfortable lives. how can these laws be the least unethical laws possible? [a moment to pray to whatever being created me: thank you for not making me a politician or law enforcer. this makes it much easier to worry about ethical laws.] i would suggest looking at who has benefited from large numbers of illegal, and thus desperate, inhabitants. the well to do will need to hire legal workers at minimum wage, so their interests shouldn't be considered. on a purely practical level, they benefit from controlled illegal immigration. if the 'girl' who cleans your house is here illegally, she isn't going demand decent wages. that needs to be factored in to whatever laws happen. somehow, the country's history needs to be acknowledged in considering how to do to illegal immigrants what was not done to the country's earliest settlers. that should function at least as a curb to the more cruel or rigid legislations.
Given how many of our legislators are christian, as they are constantly telling the rest of us, i would like to see them read their own new testament before they make immigration legislation. do unto others as you would have them do unto you. whatsoever you have done to the least of my brethren you have done also unto me. if you really believe that, then keep in mind that whatever laws you make against illegal immigrants, you are making against your own messiah. while i don't want to see any legislation being made on theological grounds, it's not a bad idea for all legislators to examine their consciences, as the catholics say, before supporting any laws. religion does not belong in the laws of a free country, but compassion, under any inspiration, does.