"There is no pillow so soft as a clear conscience." ~ French proverb
Whose Country Is It, Anyway?
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Some weeks ago, sometime in early April, while perusing my e-mail in-box, I came across a message from the YouTube website informing me that someone'I don't know who'had sent me a link to a short video posted at the site titled 'The Nation of Aztlan.' My curiosity aroused, I watched the video and found it quite provocative. It starts off with an excerpt of a speech given by (according to the subtitle) Jose Angel Guiterrez, a professor at the University of Texas , Arlington :
'We remain a hunted people! [Unintelligible] we have a destiny to fulfill in this land that historically has been ours for 40,000 years . . . And we're a new Mestizo nation! This is our homeland. We cannot, we will not and we must not be made illegal in our own homeland! We are not immigrants that came from another country to another country . . . we are migrants free to travel the length and breadth of the Americas because we belong here. We are millions. We just have to survive. We have an aging white America . They are not making babies. They're dying. It's a matter of time. The explosion is in our population.'
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa (who won his office with barely one-third of the total votes cast by just slightly more than one-third of that city's total number of eligible voters in a 2005 run-off election) is heard holding forth:
'It's not enough to elect Latino leadership. If they're supporting legislation that denies being documented, they don't belong in office, friend. They don't belong here.'
Speaker of the California State Assembly Fabian Nunez is seen declaring:
'Those rednecks that are out there making decisions for the betterment of their community will think twice before they push forward anti-immigrant legislation against our community. You can be as revolutionary as you want. You can be Chicano nationalist, you can believe in the concept of Aztlan, you can believe even in the concept of multiculturalism . . . We don't have to give our lives, we're not at that point, but we can give a little.'
The video is peppered with excerpts of this kind of rhetoric throughout, presumably recorded during the mass demonstrations that were held in early April in response to the congressional debate then taking place on proposed federal legislation for 'immigration reform.' As various Latino luminaries from the political and academic arenas spout off in voice-over, the viewer is treated to a barrage of images of huge numbers of Latinos marching through the streets, holding aloft banners bearing the image of the late Latin American communist revolutionary Che Guevara and slogans such as 'WE ARE INDIGENOUS! THE ONLY OWNERS OF THIS CONTINENT!' (Some demonstrators are also seen displaying placards declaring George W. Bush a liar, but we all know that's old news.)
The piece does have a jarring effect, especially after hearing one immigration activist declare that Latinos 'have the numbers' and 'have the artillery,' while another favorably analogized the mass migration of Latinos into the U.S. with the imperial British occupation of colonial America. The rhetoric clearly demonstrated the individual speakers' and protesters' utter contempt for rights of private property and their misguided belief that a vast swath of the western and southwestern United States rightfully belongs to the mass of Latino Americans on a collective basis due to previous injustices committed in centuries past, as though any non-Latinos currently holding just title to property in those particular regions of the country had best start packing their bags for somewhere else, whether they want to or not. After hearing many critics of illegal immigration refer to Latino immigrants as an invading army for so long'as though we should batten down the hatches and prepare to defend ourselves from untold millions who seek to brutally trim our hedges, bus our restaurant tables and perform various other services for us'it's a little unnerving to hear self-styled representatives of Latino immigrants refer to themselves as an invasion force whose endgame strategy apparently involves outbreeding us white folk as we gradually die off.
The claims and ideas cited by the various Latino immigration activists in the video are reprehensibly racist, but those are the opinions of those particular individuals. The sound bites and images were consciously selected from a vast pool of sound and video recordings and edited together to elicit a specific emotional response from the viewer, as it is with any documentary film or video seeking to promote a political agenda, which in this case was clearly to make everyone fear Latino immigrants. It is perhaps somewhat accurate, however, to suppose that the views articulated could be quite prevalent amongst the community of pro-immigration activists. But are they widely shared by Latino immigrants overall? Do they all see themselves as conquering invaders or are they merely pursuing their own economic self-interest as individuals? Somehow my Latino immigrant colleagues in my place of work (all of them here legally) don't strike me as the point men for an all-out invasion of the U.S. Coincidentally, just before watching this video, I was listening to a program on National State Radio in which I heard a self-described Republican supporter in Georgia advocate shooting illegal immigrants as they attempt to cross the border. I can think of few things more inhuman than shooting people coming into this country to simply seek economic opportunities and a better life. But was this person's position representative of critics of illegal immigration overall? Somehow my native-born friends who often voice criticism of illegal immigration don't strike me as ruthless, cold-blooded, racist killers.
In any case, if the sender's intent was to persuade me to oppose the extremely ambitious immigration reform bill that was then being debated in the U.S. Senate, as the 'Aztlan' video urges as it draws to a close, they were singing to the choir because I was already opposed to it, though most likely for very different reasons than those held by the people who produced the video. I opposed it not because I have any particular grudge against immigrants, 'legal' or 'illegal,' but because I am on principle opposed to any attempt by the political classes to organize and centrally plan the supply of labor, as the proposed 'guest worker' legislation intended to do.
I have to admit, I am woefully confused by the ongoing brouhaha over the issue of illegal immigration. When I ask critics of illegal immigration what it is about the immigrants that makes them so upset, I invariably hear the response that they have nothing particularly against immigrants, just illegal immigrants, simply because they are breaking the law. Their assertion that it is merely a question of legality is so obviously a red herring that I am quick to let them know that I don't appreciate having my intelligence insulted. It cannot merely be a matter of obedience to government laws that is at issue. There are currently something like 75,000 pages of regulations on the Federal Register, and somehow I doubt these people are as concerned about, say, whether or not the size of the holes in the grade A Swiss cheese being sold at their local supermarket is in proper compliance with the Federal rules issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
When pressed, however, they finally give me the real meat of their objections to illegal immigration: Immigrants are depressing wage rates, draining the public treasury with dependency on government welfare and schools, and they're adding extra strain on the health care system to boot. They finally come right out and say what's really on their minds, which is that on balance, they want fewer immigrants coming into the country, period. This is indicated by the very reasons they themselves give. So why did those people oppose the Federal guest worker legislation? Shouldn't anti-illegal immigration folks be in favor of such a law, which in essence sought to control (i.e., limit) the influx of immigrant labor and thus stabilize wage rates for native-born American laborers? Shouldn't they be pleased that all those newly documented illegals would then be forced to 'contribute' more to the tax base that finances all the welfare programs and socialized medicine that they are allegedly draining? Wouldn't they be most pleased to see all those migrant workers become fresh meat for the labor unions and subsequently be required to demand the same artificially inflated wages as their native-born unionized counterparts, thus placing native and foreign workers on the same inflated 'level playing field?'
Apparently the guest worker law doesn't go far enough for the anti-illegals' tastes, which can only be satiated by sending government enforcers to every suspicious home and place of business to apprehend and deport every single one of the estimated eleven million illegal workers. It should be noted here that the mere Naziness of even demanding such a thing aside, to expect the U.S. government to be practicably capable of doing this is even more of a fantasy than the guest worker idea, but apparently this hasn't occurred to many opponents of illegal immigration who seem to stubbornly maintain a blind faith in government's omnipotence.
On the other side, while I understand (and share) the illegals' opposition to the White House-backed guest worker program and the draconian HR 4437 passed by the House of Representatives, I'm somewhat puzzled by the demand many of them make that they be granted 'amnesty' or 'legal status' by the U.S. government, which would basically mean that they would be tagged by our lords and masters in Washington and be subjected to the same burdensome taxation and regulations as everyone else'that is what the politicians mean by 'amnesty' or 'legalization.' Do illegal immigrants really agree with Mayor Villaraigosa and want to be documented so they can have the grand privilege of hemorrhaging half their income in Federal, state and local taxes just like their native-born and legal counterparts? I don't get it. Are those millions of people who protest in the streets for 'immigrant rights' essentially demanding the 'right' to pay taxes? The only possible reason for them to desire such a right that I can think of is that they would perceive their taxes as helping to maintain the socialized health care and other government social services on which many of them have come to depend, and thus perhaps they could then put to rest any dispute once and for all as to whether they have any 'right' to such socialized U.S. health care programs as Medicare and Medicaid. Many of these people have come from Latin American countries highly acculturated to state socialism and many of them probably cannot conceive of any other sort of cooperative social arrangement, apparently oblivious to the fact that the socialistic policies in their native lands are what impoverished their countries in the first place, subsequently driving them up north to the comparatively more prosperous United States. And that's just what America needs, of course'more disciples of failed socialist policies, as if we don't have enough of them already.
Those illegals who favor state-granted amnesty or legalization are also no doubt motivated by the idea of obtaining health insurance and other benefits from employers, but that may result in the unintended consequence of pricing many of them out of the sectors of the job market that they have so successfully infiltrated. Their appeal to potential American employers may possibly be tarnished once they became more expensive to employ. Interestingly, in many ways the consequences of amnesty, legalization or any other program involving the documenting of illegals could very likely play out in favor of illegal immigration opponents if it resulted in fewer immigrants being employed. Between having to pay more in taxes and being priced out of work, on net balance it is probably more in the illegals' own economic interest to remain undocumented.
But politics is often confusing, as the social collective decision-making process known as 'democracy' that is U.S. culture's most revered secular religion is merely competition between pressure groups who demand that the coercive tools of government be used to bully and plunder others for their own gain. Such a process does not lend itself to anything resembling logic or reason. Force is a boot heel under which reason is ground into dust, and government is force, as George Washington so astutely observed.
This brings me to my own modest proposal for 'immigration reform.' Rather than petition the state and the political classes to 'sort it all out' for the rest of us, how about they just butt out of the issue altogether? Furthermore, how about they butt out of everything altogether? Native-born Americans and foreign immigrants have already been engaging in mutually beneficial arrangements and would continue to do so if the various political tribes on both sides of the debate simply allowed them to do it. Of course, this would involve honoring rights of private property, voluntary contracts and freedom of association, ideas totally alien to anyone who thinks that collectivist political ideas should be the only socially acceptable solutions. If a property owner residing along the U.S.-Mexican border does not want Latino immigrants he doesn't know from Adam trespassing his private property in order to move northward, that would certainly be his indisputable prerogative as the owner of that property, and if his neighbor invites Latino immigrants onto his property to perform services of labor for him, that would be his prerogative, provided neither he nor his immigrant employees violate his neighbor's rights.
Businesses would be allowed to hire whomever they want to hire without deferring to any government-mandated requirements that seek to enforce some vague, politically correct quota of laborers from designated ethnic and racial groups. If they really insist on hiring only individuals of a specific race regardless of qualifications, they will bear the cost of their racist hiring policies in the marketplace. Both foreign-born and native-born workers alike would be employed not as a result of Affirmative Action policies or court-enforced unionism that currently forces many business managers to pay laborers vastly more than their productivity warrants, but rather they would be employed on the basis of how much they are able to produce and the value of their labor to the business enterprise, which is determined by the workers' knowledge, skills and work ethic, not their status as a politically privileged group.
A health care system absent any form of government management and taxpayer subsidies would ensure that there is no 'drain' of medical infrastructure due to a growing population. A truly free market health care system not deluged with third-party payments would be able to make saner investment choices in accordance with the incentives of profit and loss, and truly unbridled competition would result in lower prices and more choices, which would ultimately be to the benefit of all health care consumers, whether they were born in the U.S. or in Latin America. A state-managed health care system ultimately seeks to turn away certain classes of people in order to keep itself from going totally broke, while providers in a truly private and for-profit system would compete for everyone's dollars and invest the profits to produce even more health care. It's a stark choice between rationing and increasing production and innovation.
I can't honestly say whether such recommendations, if adopted, would result in more or fewer immigrants, but I don't believe myself to be so omniscient as to be able to proclaim how many immigrants should or should not be permitted to enter the geographical territory known as the United States. No one person or group can claim such knowledge, as it is a determination that can only be made as the result of countless choices made by countless numbers of producers, consumers and property owners acting in their own respective interests.
America is much more than a territory lying within geographical boundaries drawn on a map. America is an idea, a philosophy, which was best encapsulated in that famous phrase in Thomas Jefferson's Declaration of Independence'we are all created equal, and we all equally retain the right to be free to pursue our own lives and our own happiness without various methods of force and coercion constructed by others strapping us down.
The millions of immigrants marching in the streets for 'immigrant rights' and the millions of native-born Americans demanding that government do something, anything, to keep them out, even if it means militarizing the borders and erecting huge walls and electric fences equipped with video surveillance cameras, could both do everyone a favor and stop asking the politicians to act on behalf of their respective agendas. Neither group collectively owns America or has any right to behave as though this country is exclusively the domain of their respective tribe and no one else.
America doesn't 'belong' to either of them.