I am responding to a Republican radio and TV ad about illegal immigration. It’s presented as the Republican counter-proposal or response to Pres. Obama demand for “comprehensive immigration legislation.” It displays involuntarily some of the main fallacies Republicans commonly entertain in connection with illegal immigration and other topics. It demonstrates disturbing collective ignorance in my camp. (I am a registered Republican.) Here are four major fallacies in that short ad:
1 The ad continues to be based on the false notion that there exists an alternative to illegal immigration in the form of some orderly visa queue. In this perspective, illegal immigrants are rude, unprincipled line jumpers. Everyone hates such people.
In fact, there is no such queue. The average unmarried Mexican has no way (zero) way to come live in the US legally. (An unmarried Mexican can try to marry a US national or legal immigrant to gain a quick visa. Some do. This is hardly a more principled way to immigrate into this country than overstaying a tourist visa, for instance.)
2 The Republican proposal demands “no amnesty.” The Republican proposal contains an amnesty: amnesty for those who entered the country illegally. It rewards those who took the matter into their own hands against other foreigners who would like to move to the US but do not wish to violate laws to do so. Again, illegal immigration is the only way to enter the US and stay for almost everyone in the world.
There is no way to regularize the status of current illegals living in this country without an amnesty of some kind. I predict that neither the federal government nor the individual states will ever engage in the massive police action that would be required to hunt down illegal aliens in their homes, places of work, churches, and schools (including kindergartens). Everyone else also knows this to be true. Republican leaders have yet to acknowledge this simple fact of life.
3 The Republican proposal would require illegal aliens to “learn English” as a condition of their legalization. This is ill-informed as well as downright stupid.
First, illegal aliens are very busy learning English. They are all aware of the fact that knowing the main local language is a condition of real economic success in this country. To say otherwise is to make a tremendously xenophobic statement by implicitly calling immigrants stupid. That’s in addition to ignoring the facts on the ground.
Second: What are we going to do with Juan if he flunks his English midterm? Throw him over the border? How about Mr Lee, who has been here (illegally) for fifteen year and who owns a restaurant employing six people? Do we ship him back to Canton if he gets two C- in a row on his English grammar test?
Plus, what is the federal government going to do when some ill-intentioned academic reveals that a significant percentage of American-born US citizens also flunked the midterm, the same midterm?
Is this “obligation” to learn English, specifically, even constitutional? The last time I checked, the US had no official language. Why not Navajo?
This all smacks of the insane dreams of comfortably monolingual individuals who believe they would master Spanish if they could only clear a dozen Saturday mornings. Do these people take advice from anyone? Do they read anything?
4 “Securing the border” has become a mindless Republican incantation. It’s increasingly irrelevant for the purpose of immigration control, at least closing the southern border is. Several relevant points. At them same time as we were having our endless economic crisis killing thousands of jobs, the Mexican economy was doing better than before. And, Mexican population growth has almost ceased. The huge hordes of hungry Mexicans massed at the border to jump in and take over everything American have evaporated. Mexicans have almost stopped coming. Those who do use a student visa or a tourist visa and just don’t go home until they are good and ready.
Securing the border may serve a purpose in the context of a drug war. If that’s the issue, Republicans should have the coraje (same as “cojones” but more polite) to tell the truth.
And now, what the Republican leadership is not doing or not doing enough: Shout to the rooftops that legalizing illegals and awarding them citizenship are only artificially linked (by artful Democrats seeking free votes for generation). European countries have established successfully for many years the fact that citizens of another country can live in forever without acquiring political rights at all. (A recent well publicized Swiss vote on immigration does not deal with this matter.) Fellow immigrant Nikiforov and I explored this idea in depth in connection with the US and Mexico in our article “If Mexicans and Americans Could Cross the Border Freely” featured in the libertarian journal Independent Review.
Here is a real immigration issue the Republican leadership is not attending to: Tens of thousands of younger French people want to move to this country. The issue is so serious that there is a brand new French cabinet post dedicated to stemming the flow. Many of the would-be French migrants possess to a high degree the kind of training Silicon Valley companies say they can’t find. Many of the same well-educated French citizens who wouldn’t dream of opening a lollipop stand under French conditions discover that they possess a big entrepreneurial gene a couple of years after landing here. Let me also point out that the quality of food improves automatically after a surge of knowledgeable and demanding French customers. (Yes, some stereotypes are well founded.)
At this point, there is no legal way to bring in these high quality immigrants. Our immigration system is forcing into illegal immigration the most determined and least law-abiding segment among exactly the kind of immigrants we want.