Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse has some interesting words about the immigration debate. To me, the striking words in her essay deal less with the specifics of immigration policy and more with the way the debate is being conducted.
We have a set of immigration laws that are not being enforced. We also, obviously, are not enforcing our labor laws. The employers who hire illegal workers are almost certainly not in compliance with every aspect of our labor laws governing hours, wages, benefits and working conditions.
Both the immigration and labor laws lie in wait to be enforced when convenient. That’s a recipe for undermining the rule of law, the key thing that makes us richer than the rest of the world. This is true, regardless of the exact content of the laws. Any laws you don’t intend to enforce or that you intend to enforce selectively, invite corruption.
But as we look at how the immigration debate is unfolding, there are even more reasons to be concerned about the rule of law. The mass demonstrations of the past weeks reveal a much more sinister development: the arrival of French-style street politics in America.
Look at the control the French public employee unions have over public policy. More than a million people came out in the street to oppose a law that is an entirely reasonable attempt to deal with youth unemployment, which has been over 20 percent for a decade. The French public employee unions organize the students to fill the streets, scare the government and control the “debate.” It is policy-making through intimidation. France is a banana republic with bad weather. If the Left has its way, it will be coming to a street near you.
Left-wing groups are actively working the immigration debate. Leftist unions and organizations worked behind the scenes of the high school demonstrations of the past weeks. Think about it: a network of e-mails went out over the week-end of March 24-25. The next week, high school kids from all across the country “spontaneously” ditched school, aided and abetted by left-wing groups, including, in Los Angeles’ case, their own school officials.
Not all the advocates for illegal immigrants apply these strong arm tactics. The Washington Post ran an article yesterday about illegal immigrants making their case by lobbying Congressmen in their offices on Capitol Hill. They wanted to put a human face on immigration policy. They did a good job:
Villalva has just finished telling four of his senior staffers her story, words in Spanish and English, tears spilling down her cheeks. How she left home at 15 because her family was starving. Survived the desert to "help my dad," whom she didn't see again for nine years. Now, married, she has three children, who are Americans.
"The only thing we want to do is work and build the country," says Villalva, and the Hill staffers watch her, riveted.
The men and women who worked the Capitol corridors are good sincere, hard working people who only want an opportunity to succeed the American way. You know what? I want these people to succeed too. I am happy to share my country with them.
Contrast that with the Mexican flag waving crowds demanding benefits from America. That sense of entitlement is a portent of generation after generation of poverty stricken immigrants living in ghettos. Don’t break my country’s laws and then demand my tax dollars to support your health care, education, and subsistence. We have enough American citizens who eschew education and hard work for dealing drugs and living on the government dole. We don’t need to add to that population.
The question is how do you tell the difference? How do you know someone is going to be a hard working American, push his kids to get an education and establish a legacy of prosperity? Who merits our compassion and assistance and who deserves a quick trip to the other side of the border? There are no perfect answers.