Dover Bitch

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Fair is fair

This may be hard for some to swallow, but there's no denying that it's true: The American government and American employers have tacitly encouraged illegal immigration.

Employers have hired illegals and taken advantage of their status, while the government has sporadically and arbitrarily enforced the law. How could anyone deny that the people coming here did so without the federal government looking the other way?

Why is it important to face this fact? Because although it is entirely appropriate for the United States to decide that, as of this minute, the laws and borders will be enforced fervently, it is absurd and immoral to pretend that this seriousness of purpose began in the distant past and that people who came here to establish families and to work for the American Dream did so without any complicity from those who would punish them today.

If we recognize the contributions of the undocumented workers who have been here for some time, does that tell the world that it's OK to break the law? Lou Dobbs and others will say it does, but the truth is that this country already told them that. It is absolutely delusional to think that we can focus all the burden of this policy transformation on to a hard-working minority and somehow communicate to the world that we are the shining emblem of justice.

This government isn't suddenly telling people they can no longer jaywalk. These immigrants have established lives here. Anybody claiming to have respect for life, for families, for work... for the American Dream should have enough room in his or her heart to accept the people who are already here.

If we don't want to tell the world that it's OK to break the law, we should ask our Senators and Congressmen to stop figuring out how to change the laws so that the president isn't breaking them anymore.

UPDATE: Following up, DB would like to add that it is not hard to understand why people in Bay Buchanan's "deport them all" camp would feel no hypocrisy in taking a position that people in the U.S. illegally deserve no "reward" for being here. People like her and Dobbs aren't individually culpable for the lax enforcement of the immigration laws. To the contrary, they've been demanding tougher enforcement for years.

But they, more than anyone, should recognize that collectively, our nation has not respected its own laws. Dobbs' show would not even have its primary focus had the federal government been enforcing the laws and had American employers been hiring legal workers exclusively. It should be more clear to the people who don't feel personally responsible for the problem and who have been critical of the federal government that it is in no position to act with any legitimacy as though it believes its laws are sacrosanct.

The point is that the message, "You get rewarded for breaking the law," isn't going to be sent out by anything the government does at this point. That message has been sent for decades and the people who came here to work are here because they received it.

The only message we should be worried about sending to the rest of the world at this point is "The people with power and money in our democracy will sell out their own citizens by hiring cheap foreign labor until it becomes politically untenable, at which point they will tell the minorities working for peanuts to get the hell out."

Tougher border security and consistent enforcement of the laws is not only appropriate, but DB demands it. Treating working people with families, already in our communities, like garbage to be dragged to the curb, however...

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