Tuesday, May 2
Tuesday, May 02, 2006
My response to someone who was called a bigot for their views on illegal immigrant rights:
It doesn't make you a bigot to believe immigration should be limited to legal immigration, and border security is not a racist issue (I'm amazed that the serious issue of port security is getting lost here, with so few shipping containers inspected). But how people view illegal immigrants and their rights may depend a great deal on whether people actually *know* someone who has lived in the US illegally, built a life, raised kids and so on, or whether one is judging by hysteria in the media or by talking with friends who themselves are judging illegal immigrants by the perceptions of others not connected to them in any human way... a disturbing version of the "telephone game", distorting how people view others who are in a different category. Perception is always affected by the people around us, and we tend to not realize how easily our opinions (and I'm talking about everyone here, not one side or the other) can be altered by the presence of other people who all have one opinion. It's called groupthink, and it's a human problem, not a left or right problem. It leads to groups standing off as groups, rather than communicating heart to heart as individuals.
One strange aspect of this whole debate is that it's really not *possible* to deport illegal aliens who have built lives here. It's possible to return people who cross illegally, but once someone has lived here for years and has deep social ties here, it would be not only impractical and expensive but incredibly inhumane to try to round them up and deport them, splitting up families, friends, church congregations and small businesses. The question is not "do we give them amnesty or deport them all" but rather, "do we give them some way to become legal citizens, or do we pretend they're not here." No one's going to deport 12 million people. We'd do better to put amnesty on the back burner and do something serious about port and border security, not out of fear of illegal immigrants, but of suitcase nukes or biological weapons. Illegal immigrants aren't trying to kill me. Terrorists might be, now that we've alienated and pissed off the entire planet.
I'm wary of any group being labeled "illegal" as an identity, that kind of language may make it easier to dehumanize. A lot of anger is being generated around illegal immigration, and I think much of it is due to the media and to politicians using the issue to score points, not to any sudden danger from illegal immigrants. What's getting lost in all the shouting is that illegal immigrants are human beings with families, who have been going to the same church for years, working, taking care of their kids, people who have neighbors and friends and lives. Easy to forget that when we treat human beings as if they were some kind of invading force. Language can easily turn ugly, and then actions follow, so I would just like everyone to tone it down a little and treat it as the complex issue it is, with some sensitivity and mutual respect. Otherwise, bigots and extremists will hijack the issue on both sides, whipping up more anger and prodding on people who like to carry out public anger with acts of cruelty and violence. No one's kids should be getting beaten up over an issue that was barely mentioned a year or two ago.