From the quiet road: thoughts on immigration policy

I was walking a short length of our quiet rural street, looking at the hills and the maybe thousand cattle on them that are God’s, feeling grateful that a neighbor’s dog could multitask — he could bark and stand still behind his fence and wag his tail at the same time — while thinking thoughts of frustration and perplexity about the so-called immigration problem currently fueling people who are aspiring to be problem-solver-in-chief.

True, as a sovereign nation, and may we by God’s grace always be one, we have an absolute right to establish borders. And true again, we can’t have non-citizens voting in our elections. But some citizens vote more than once, and some felons who have lost their right to vote, vote anyway, and some non-citizens vote, too. Stuff falls through the cracks all the time and our house is kind of a mess. But we don’t get into multiple voting scandals, and we don’t resort to felon-bashing, at least not interminably, after an election result we don’t like. Nepotism threatens jobs and people ignore it. If immigrants are seen as threatening jobs, people become hateful about it. What people seem to want to perpetuate is alien-bashing.

Granted, I live in a small northwestern town of about 7000 people, and we don’t exactly have an overwhelming international presence. But I’ve lived in cities like Houston and Tacoma and San Diego, where an entirely different demographic is represented, and I felt the same way there as I do here. You don’t swap out a set of ethics according to your environmental circumstances. Or at least, I think you shouldn’t. But what I find specifically frustrating about alien-bashing is that it typically is perpetrated by otherwise liberty-minded people who seem not to get the obvious consequences.

The obvious consequences of immigration-enforcing laws like Arizona has, and like Alabama desires to have, and of policies espoused by all conservative and supposedly liberty-minded candidates right now, is that such law and policy tends to promote an environment of suspicion. We’re going to question people who give people rides? How can you tell a first generation natural-born American from his immigrant, undocumented parent? Everyone becomes a suspect. And an environment of suspicion is conducive to a police state, because we need to have authoritative questioners to examine suspicious people.

In other words, if we like the TSA groper routine, we’ll love a state of constant suspicion and the force authorized to check it out as a routine presence in every personal sphere we move in. We can all multitask, just like my neighbor’s dog: we can be citizen informants and citizen suspects at the same time.

It’s annoying when anyone breaks the law with impunity, no less if they are an illegal alien, but no more, either. But a well-regulated police state to enforce what might not be the most harmful problem facing our nation doesn’t strike me as the most charming scenario. I haven’t been in an airport since 1998, and I desire less than ever to fly, because I have no desire to be an a priori suspect simply because I am flying. So no, I’m not big on having TSA types in my local mall.

If our economy and our tax policies generate class conflicts, that is an unfortunate thing; but it would be far more unfortunate if those conflicts became fueled by racial hatred for the status crime of existing somewhere without permission.

I estrange friends every election year. I never look forward to these things.


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