Jewish World Review April 11, 2006 / 13 Nissan,
Activists who are organizing mass marches and demonstrations in
cities across America may well be congratulating themselves on the huge
numbers of people they can get to turn out to protest efforts in Congress to
reduce illegal immigration.
No doubt that will impress many in the media and intimidate many
politicians. But how these marches will be seen by millions of other
Americans is another question entirely.
The Mexican flags and the strident assertions of a right to
violate American laws are a danger signal to this society, as they would be
to any society.
The releasing of children from schools to take part in these
marches and the support of the marchers' goals by some religious leaders
demonstrate that this contempt for the laws of the land has spread well
beyond immigrant communities.
For some, this is just another extension of their general
anti-establishment attitudes and activities. They are ready to protest
virtually anything at any time.
At the other end of the political spectrum are staid and sober
representatives of business interests who simply want a continuing supply of
cheap labor. They don't march, they lobby politicians.
Both liberals and free-market libertarians often see this as an
abstract issue about poor people being hindered from moving to jobs by an
arbitrary border drawn across the southwest desert.
Intellectuals' ability to think of people in the abstract is a
dangerous talent in a world where people differ in all the ways that make
them people. The cultures and surrounding circumstances of those people are
crucial for understanding what they are likely to do and what the
consequences are likely to be.
Some free-market advocates argue that the same principle which
justifies free international trade in commodities should justify the free
movement of people as well. But this ignores the fact that people have
consequences that go far beyond the consequences of commodities.
Commodities are used up and vanish. People generate more people,
who become a permanent and expanding part of the country's population and
It is an irreversible process and a potentially dangerous
process, as Europeans have discovered with their "guest worker" programs
that have brought in many Muslims who are fundamentally hostile to the
culture and the people that welcomed them.
Unlike commodities, people in a welfare state have legal claims
on other people's tax dollars and expensive services in schools and
hospitals, not to mention the high cost of imprisoning many of them who
Immigrants in past centuries came here to become Americans, not
to remain foreigners, much less to proclaim the rights of their homelands to
reclaim American soil, as some of the Mexican activist groups have done.
In the wars that this country fought, immigrant groups were
among the most patriotic volunteers, earning the respect of American
citizens on the battlefield with their blood and their lives.
Today, immigrant spokesmen promote grievances, not gratitude,
much less patriotism. Moreover, many native-born Americans also promote a
sense of separatism and grievance and, through "multi-culturalism," strive
to keep immigrants foreign and disaffected.
This is not to say that all or most of the illegal immigrants
themselves share this anti-establishment or anti-American bias of many of
their spokesmen or supporters. Most are probably here to make a buck and
have little time for ideology.
Hispanic activists themselves recognize that many of the
immigrants from Mexico legal or illegal would assimilate into American
society in the absence of these activists' efforts to keep them a separate
constituency. But these efforts are widespread and unrelenting, a fact that
cannot be ignored.
Whatever is said or done in the immigration debate, no one
should insult the American people's intelligence by talking or acting as if
this is a question about the movement of abstract people across an abstract
What is likely to be done? A pretense of reducing illegal
immigration and a reality of amnesty under some other name.
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