More than once in this forum I’ve complained about political moderates who feign intellectualism, by answering either sides’ argument with a thoughtful “Well, on the other hand….”. For once though, I’m frustrated enough at both extremes on an issue to be driven to think of a new way. I wouldn’t call it moderate. I’d call it intentional.
For a few weeks I’ve listened to both sides of the issue rail about immigration – or more properly described, people sneaking across the border. Immigration is a legal process, albeit slow and arduous. Sneaking is just that – sneaky. Also, let me say that I lean hard toward the law and order side of the debate…but I’m pretty embarrassed by those who would claim to represent me.
Driving the debate to the surface (it’s always brewing, but most of the nation can ignore it, cushioned by nations like Texas) are two major news happenings.
This is Alabama – We speak English
Alabama Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim James is all over the interwebs with a new video advertisement, pledging to print the Alabama drivers test in English only. James is very concerned about people driving around rural Alabama singing along with their radios in languages other than proper English. I raise the following questions:
First, Mr. James, how many people – including native Alabamaniacs – are speaking proper English already? One word: “Ya’ll”. Or…two words. We’re not sure. Let’s just say that this sudden commitment to the Queens English seems a little out of place coming from your neck of the woods….ya’ll. Did I use that right?
Additionally, my family immigrated legally in the early 1900’s. They came with nothing, burned the wagons for firewood, dug a hole on the warm spot on the ground and lived in until spring. They scratched out an existence in the North Dakota topsoil, one of the few places left to homestead. Winters were long, work was hard, but they did their part, paid their taxes, worshiped their God and took care of one another, almost entirely in German. They were legal, but it really took a few decades before they made the full transfer to English. Would they have been welcome to do this in Alabama?
Legal or illegal status is the question – not language. The only reason for a political candidate to raise this non-issue is to play to his base, assuming his base is already afraid of people who are different to them. He won’t save much money – in fact, he’ll lose some federal funding.
Mr. James, I probably agree on you with a lot of other issues, but this is America. We use sense. And we can do better than this.
One more thing, if you make this change, make sure everyone driving out of the executive exit of the Hyundai plant in Montgomery is singing along in English….unless this is just about Latinos (or other groups who don’t pay with American Express).
Show me the paper.
Let me say, Arizona has gotten the short hotdog at the Federal Cookout for Immigration. Somehow the feds decided if we tightened up the borders of Texas and California, the illegals would turn around. They merely moved to the center and started crossing the more dangerous Arizona frontier.
In response, Arizona has passed a fairly sweeping law that, among other things, requires law enforcement officers who suspect someone of being an illegal alien to present their immigration papers. Presumably, if they cannot produce them, they are arrested.
Is this constitutional? Probably so. Is it uniformly enforceable? Not a chance. The law isn’t even in effect yet and various county sheriffs are announcing publicly if they’ll enforce or ignore it. Major urban areas like Tuscon and Phoenix are opting out (when did we allow a sheriff to opt out of enforcing a law?).
My real pain over this is that we’re seeing extremely simplistic answers from both sides. Again, this comes from someone who even two years ago would have said “if you can’t prove citizenship, you’re on the next train out of here…”. Then, in a late night coffee session with a Latino pastor (legal citizen for those who are wondering), I began to look at it another way.
He said “Your perspective, if universally applied, would mean every family in my church of several hundred would lose an uncle, father, grandparent, etc…who have been in this country illegally for 20 years, married a citizen, and had children. Your perspective is probably totally legal. But does is serve the greater good to disrupt so many peaceful families?”
It doesn’t serve their good. It doesn’t even serve the good of US border communities to recklessly send them all back. Stop them at the border? Certainly. But take the guy who came across decades ago and deport him, making his US born children defacto orphans? That can’t be good for the children or for the United States.
The Bible says much about how we treat aliens. Most of it runs along these lines; “When an alien lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him.” – Leviticus 19:33. To be fair, these aliens were legal (or at least not illegal in the sense that they skirted a border outpost). To be equitable to the other side, this problem is decades old and multi-generational in impact. We can’t pretend that everyone we’re deporting is a 20 year old meth head.
I don’t have clear answers on all this. My point is to suggest that we need to talk about it more thoughtfully than we are. One side is screaming vengeful bumper sticker fodder about ridding our borders of those scary people different from us. The other side insists we throw open the borders and hand out healthcards to people as they towel off on our side of the Rio Grande.
We really like distinct borders. Sometimes, the middle ground is the hardest to find.
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