Friday, July 11, 2008

My differing and nuanced opinions on immigration issues

Issue 1: Is it necessary to call immigrants "undocumented" instead of "illegal"?

I understand why the term "illegal" can be so offensive, and possibly even an encouragement of dehumanization. Dehumanization can make people more comfortable with ignoring immigrants' human needs. Then again, the use of a word does not program a person to do harm. And apathy for others suffering can be curtailed by encouraging other thoughts and other words. I support counter-speech rather than restricted speech, even while I think restraining one's words can be a good thing.

However, if someone breaks the law, no matter how non-violent their actions, they still broke the law. It is accurate to call these actions illegal. I do regret that the term has been used on people. I would prefer "illegal immigration" rather than "illegal immigrant".

Therefore, I will choose, for the remainder of this blog, to use the word "undocumented" rather than "illegal". But I don't necessarilly condemn different word choice by others.

Issue 2: Should we deport undocumented ("illegal") immigrants?

Only if they pose a threat to this country. We find this out by doing a criminal background check on all undocumented immigrants. Non-violent crimes - like jaywalking, parking violations, or graffitti - don't matter in thi sregard. Even past violent behavior would more likely be forgivable. After all, many people move to America to build a new life, and part of that process is moving away from past behaviors which were bad and moving towards good, responsible behaviors in the here and now. Such a self-motivated rehabilitation should be embraced and assisted in appropriate ways. We need more wrong-doers to take this journey.

Issue 3: Should immigrants be required to learn English?

Yes, but they should not go to jail for not doing so. I saw one case on the news that was questionable, where someone was arrested for an alleged crime and told that they needed to learn English to escape jail. At best, I think this is highly questionable.

I also oppose having "English-only" policies imposed on immigrants private conversation. This does NOT mean we can't have English-only policies in English classes or similar classes in other non-language subjects designed to teach English. Perhaps we can justify teaching math and science only in English. I have no fixed opinion on this.

But definitely an English-only policy is wrong when kids are chatting on a school bus, to and from school, field trips, sports games. Such a policy existed in a school district I can't remember, and the ACLU challenged it.

And what's wrong with Spanish newspapers? Maybe an English-only newspaper rule would be the best thing for them, but it would also keep them in the dark about current events and politics. Sounds like a good reason to forgo this application of English-only.

There are various other contexts we can argue. I take each one as they come.


Issue 4: Should we use the word "assimilation" or "integration"?

"Integration" sounds better because I remember the cross-cultural definition - in my Culture Psychology class - saying that "integration" allows for maintaining the immigrant's original culture while absorbing the new one. "Assimiliation" was defined as abondoning the origoinal culture and taking the new one in it's place. According to this definition, it seems that the original must be erased and replaced with the "better" one of the host country.

Is this what conservatives argue for when they demand that immigrants "assimilate"? I can't know for sure, but if that is the case - and it depends on the mindset of the individual, but sometimes the group - then liberals are perfectly fair to call these conservatives rascist, because to demand them to erase their own culture for the "better" host culture is a rascist demand.

However, complications in my analysis arise when immigrants might have a cultural hatred of their host country. Such has been noted about Arab immigrants who go to European countries and preach hatred of the West. In some cases they speak about how better it would be if the West got "attacked", or in some cases "dancing in the street" as was allegedly the case after 9-11.

Hating a country is NOT the same as having a plan to attack it. And wanting to attack a country is not the same as actually having a plan to do so. It is understandable that such public preachers might be the first logical suspects in a case. I'm fine with questioning these individuals. But free speech demands that the most hateful, abhorrant, misinformed views be allowed to be expressed in public settings.

So I think it is wrong that Tony Blair had said that such speakers should "get out" and perhaps it is wrong that one of my favorite atheist thinkers - who is still my favorite - Ayaan Hirsi Ali said that Arab immigration should be curtailed to keep their ideas out.

Last point: People can use "integration" in place of "assimilation" and they'll still be the same thing. But it will be deceptive to the audience. So maybe the politically-correct "integration" isn't always the most positive thing for those that speak for immigrants' rights. But I prefer this word, and will use it.

Issue 5: How much of their original culture should they abandon?

Scary question. Avoiding it...

Issue 6: Do immigrants take jobs?

This is a tough one. I think the reality can vary. Immigrants do pay taxes. They contribute as well as consume. The question is what is the net effect? This might depend on the economic conditions of the place. Might this be a reason to stop blaming immigrants. Maybe. We are all victims of the economic conditions around us. Then again, the economy is driven by human behavior and policy, so we're not quite off the hook.

But I wonder how many complainers will get jobs if we deported immigrants today.

Maybe they are thinking of the future. But will the future be soon enough for them to benefit? I don't know. They are dead-dead certain that deporting the immigrants will "get their jobs back". Maybe that's true. Maybe its not. Maybe there's another way. Maybe the native-born workers can be compensated for their loss. Maybe we can change the law so NO one can work for less than minimum wage, so immigrants can't use the "work-for-less" strategegy to compete. I'd be happier with that because then these immigrants won't have to work for pennies. That is sinful.

Final issue (for now): What is "amnesty"?

I'm convinced that "amnesty" has, nowadays, no real objective meaning. It is defined by political advocates. Conservatives might define "amnesty" as any policy other than the unconditional deportation of ALL undocumented immigrants. So according to this definition, I would be "pro-amnesty". But National Council of La Raza defines amnesty as having no criminal background checks or English requirements. So according to this definition I am "anti-amnesty" and so is La Raza. One Time Magazine author, Nathan Thornburgh, used the conservative definition of amnesty and said it is good and right.

See what I mean? No real definition. And depending how you define it, someone like me can be either for OR against amnesty.

I do think that conservatives like to scare people from being associated with that word. Their favorite way of sliming a politician is to say they "support amnesty".

I hope that this paragraph has taught you all to respond to those accusations with this question:

"How do you define amnesty?"

10 comments:

zeezil said...

Immigration Terminology 101

With the vitriolic immigration debate roiling in all parts of our country, it is important to understand terminology. Be prepared to dispel the half-truths and no truths of the way those who are illegally in our country are described by their advocates. Knowledge is power:

ILLEGAL:
1.) Unlawful; illegitimate; illicit; unlicensed.
2.) Illegal, unlawful, illegitimate, illicit, criminal can all describe actions not in accord with law.
3.) Illegal refers most specifically to violations of statutes.
4.) Prohibited by law

ALIEN:
1.) a person who is not a citizen of the country.
2.) in the United States any person born in another country to parents who are not American and who has not become a naturalized citizen. There are resident aliens officially permitted to live in the country and illegal aliens who have sneaked into the country or stayed beyond the time allowed on a visa.

INVADE:
1. to enter like an enemy: Locusts invaded the fields
2. to enter as if to take possession: To invade a neighbor's home
3. to enter and affect injuriously or destructively, as disease: Viruses that invade the bloodstream.
4. to intrude upon: To invade the privacy of a family.
5. to encroach or infringe upon: to invade the rights of citizens.
6. to permeate: The smell of baking invades the house.
7. to penetrate; spread into or over: The population boom has caused city dwellers to invade the suburbs

Those illegally in a country are not "immigrants". There is no such thing as an "illegal immigrant". An immigrant is involved with an established and orderly procedure of immigration (entering a country to which one is not native in order to settle there by legal process).

They are not immigrants, not undocumented immigrants (Kennedy and the PC fan favorite), not undocumented workers, not undocumented Americans (Harry Reid’s favorite), not economic immigrants (Big Business and Wall Street favorite), not immigrants without work papers, not people who are working (Enrique Morone’s favorite), not migrant workers, not entrants, not day laborers and not the “unbanked” (Bill Clinton and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s favorite).

The government has defined them as "illegal aliens" and explicitly uses that term in all its laws and statutes. So keep it simple…a spade is a spade…they are illegal aliens. Or, if you’d prefer, another term that would be just as correct to use is "invaders". I would consider the two interchangeable.

One other definition is exceedingly useful since you’ll hear with every piece of amnesty legislation, the open border lobbyists, facilitators and illegal alien advocates declaring that it isn’t amnesty in the hope that you will think so. Here’s the definition of amnesty so you can decide for yourself:

AMNESTY is legislation to forgive the breaking of immigration laws and to make it possible for illegal aliens to live in the United States. Amnesty represents a system of federal rewards and assistance for illegal aliens, and they entice an even greater number of foreign nationals to illegally enter a country. Amnesty is providing the ultimate goal of the perpetrators illegal entry...legalization of their presence.

AMNESTY:
1. A general pardon for offenses against a government
2. An act of forgiveness for past offenses, esp. to a class of persons as a whole
3. Forgetting or overlooking any past offense

There you have it, folks. Knowledge is power…use it wisely.

Judith said...

I just wanted to first make a small correction to the previous commenter. "Immigrant," as a legal term, means an individual who enters the country with the intent to remain. It does not require documentation or legal entry. "Legal permanent resident (LPR)" is the term used to refer to immigrants who went through the legal process.

Also, on issue one: I think that's exactly the point. Nothing wrong with "illegal immigration," "illegally entering the country." The problem with "illegal immigrant" or, worse, "illegal alien" (which is the term used in the INA but which is often replaced in secondary source material as dehumanizing, only used specifically to refer to the US legal definition) is exactly what you identified. People cannot be illegal. It is not illegal to exist.

Bigjer said...

ZEEZIL: A FEW TIMES THERE WERE PORTIONS OF SOME OF YOUR BLOGS THAT WE HAVE STRONGLY DIS-AGREED WITH, BUT YOU HAVE IT "SOLIDLY' CORRECT AS CAN BE ON THIS BLOG, AND IN OUR GROUP OF 256 MEMBERS, YOU NOW HAVE AN SMALL ARMY BEHIND YOU.

WE ALSO USE THE TERM "INVADER" SINCE IT IS IN ACTUALITY WHAT THEY ARE.
ROME FELL BECAUSE ONE OF THE REASONS WAS AN "INVASION" OF HOSTILE NEIGHBORS, AND WE CAN SEE NO DIFFERENCE HERE.

HISTORIANS AND PHILOSOPHERS BOTH AGREE FROM HISTORY, THAT NO DEMOCRATIC NATION HAS EVER LASTED OVER 250 YEARS. WE ARE NOW IN OUR 232 YEAR.

AGAIN, MANY DIFFERENT REASONS, BUT ONE OF THE SAME IN ALL INSTANCES WAS THE "INVASION" OF HOSTILE NEIGHBORS.....

OTHERS WERE FAILURE TO ASSIMILATE INTO THE MELTING POT, BUT DESIRING
TO KEEP THEIR OWN LANGUAGE AND CUSTOMS, WHICH NOW MAKES US A SALAD BOWL, RATHER THAN A MELTING POT.

I COMMEND YOU ON YOUR DEFINING ALL OF THE NECESSARY WORDS TO ACCOMPLISH YOUR MEANING ON THIS SUBJECT. TIME CONSUMING.
GREAT JOB.

ANOTHER SUBJECT TO LOOK AT IS THE MAYAN CALENDAR, WHICH HAD ALARMING TRUTHFUL PREDICTIONS IN IT.

LOVE FOR YOU TO DO THE WORK ON IT, AS WE ARE A GROUP OF SHERIFF'S FROM WASH.STATE, AND WE STILL PUNCH THE CLOCK....THANKS FOR YOUR HELP.

GOOD BLOG.

Bigjer said...

JUDITH: I SEE YOU ARE A LAW STUDENT, GREAT....
HOWEVER, YOU MUST BE USING LAW INTERPRETATIONS FOR THE WORD : ILLEGAL'
THE DICTIONARY DEFINES 'ILLEGAL' AS NOT FOLLOWING, OR AUTHORIZED BY LAW.
HOW THEN DOES ONE DESCRIBE THOSE WHO ARE IN THE COUNTRY IN AN ILLEGAL MANNER BY INVADING,OR REMAINING, BOTH OF WHICH ARE ILLEGAL. ( NOT ACCORDING TO THE LAW) ?

IT IS A MIS-DEAMNOR TO ILLEGALLY ENTER THIS COUNTRY WITHOUT PROPER PAPERS,AND IS A FELONY TO "REMAIN".
THIS IS ACCORDING TO THE U.S. CODE OF LAWS..SEC.8

PERHAPS YOU CAN EXPLAUN IT TO ME AS TAUGHT BY YOUR PROF. ?

zeezil said...

Thanks for your supportive words, Bigjer. Your service to the community and country as a sheriff, is very much appreciated. I'm sure the far left fringe and anarchists are making it as disruptive as they can on a law officer simply enforcing our laws.

That's what it's all about folks, ENFORCING OUR LAWS.

Yes, we are a nation of immigrants but we are first, and foremost, a nation of Americans who must be united under one flag, with one national language, with one national purpose. Our laws are written to apply equally and must be enforced. We must unite under one purpose and that is to strengthen our country by striving for the good of all and not fragment into ethnic protectorates. Turning a blind eye to or encouraging illegal immigration will lead us into anarchy and tremendous social upheaval. We must build the fence, man the border, punish the employers of illegals and force the illegals to depart. We are a nation of laws and we need to act like it.

H4736 said...

I am happy to hear from so many different viewholders. I think allowing more open speech is good,

Here's aquestion for zeezil.

The listed definition of "invader" and "illegal" seems to fit what yours saying. This is what they call denotative meaning.

But what about connotative meaning?
Isn't there at least some confusion in calling a dangerous "hostile" invader and an ordinary farmer by the same name?

The people who invaded Rome were hostile. The hijackers who invaded our country were hostile (though ironically they did it legally). But these Mexican farmers are only looking for a better job.

While the dictionary definition (denotative) meaning might be the same word, the connotative (emotional associations) are starkly different.

And I think that's what has the advocates on the other side so upset, is that we lump Mexican farmers in the sam ecategory as hostile warriors or airline hijackers.

Isn't this lumping a form of smearing on the part of your side of the isle?

zeezil said...

Not sure what your point is, h4736. My definitions stand as is.

H4736 said...

my point, zeezil, is that by using the same word - "invader" - for both hostile terrorists and farmers who want to be left a alone you are making them seem one and the same.

And maybe that's the point, isn't it? To create the image that these people are terrorists even though we both know they are just farmers. You WANT to create the negative image.

However, in spite of what I said, its probably a moot point because we can't ban words. "Illegal" is still the definition for law-breakers, which the border-crossers are. But so are jaywalkers, parking violaters, litterbugs. These are "illegals" as well, but are they "illegal" in the same way as murderers, rapists, terrorists, and warlords? All these people broke the law, but only the latter are really dangerous. The previous guys are miusdemeanors.

But I get the feeling you WANT to blur the line because you want to throw as much dirt on the immigrants as possible.

And this is why the other side has such negative words about you, like "bigot".

Can you say something to rebut this? Anything? It would help. Because right now we just have you lumping jaywalkers and murderers as equals.

Yes BOTH are illegal, but it seems you want them both to be hated equally.

Do you?

H4736 said...

A suggestion:

Maybe "illegal" is good to stay,

but "invader" is overreaching.

Crossing the border IS breaking the law, so "illegal" fits well.

But "invader" seemsi to apply better to terrorists, armies, warlords. Mexican farmers? Not so much.

If you want to argue that their presence takes away Americamn jobs, I can buy that. My long post above says I have no set opinion on how immigrants affect our job market. I can see it going either way.

So yes, I can see immgrants taking jobs,

But not in an intentional, violent way implied by terms like "invader", "warlord", terrorist". It seems the Mexicans would be happier if there was enough jobs for everybody. They don't WANT to impoverish us, I think its just an unfortunate side effect of their presence.

This might be good enough reason to press for border security, which most mainstream immigartion advocates support. I think we just break apart when we talk about deportation of non-violent individuals who have lived and made a family here for years.

The American worker's job security must be saved. But deporting families is not the right answer.

Perhaps we can raise the taxes on the illegal immigrants? I think we'd have more mainstream support for imposing a fine for crossing the border. They are already paying taxes, so if we raise their taxes, we get more revenue out of them.

And how about a policy of minimum wage for any worker - legal or illegal. That way immigrants cannot try to work for less. That would take away that unfair advantage (for lack of a better term).

Other ideas...

zeezil said...

I'll stick with the terms "illegal alien" and "invader" which are descriptions more to the point that the innocuous and benign terms the pro-illegal advocates try to dupe the general public with.