Fear


A few things struck me about the 60 Minutes‘ piece on Lou Barletta (the mayor of Hazelton, PA) and his anti-immigrant legislation. First, and most obviously, he is unconcerned that the laws asks employers and landlords to become vigilantes, taking the law into their hands to achieve his crusade. Two, he is unconcerned that his legislation has produced a backlash against all immigrants, not just illegal immigrants (thus it can rightly be called anti-immigrant). Not only are businesses that serve the Spanish-speaking community closing up, they are being threatened to do so. When asked if his legislation undermined all immigrants regardless of origin, he only professed the righteousness of anti-immigration policy. He is perfectly comfortable with legal immigrants being harmed.

The third thing that I noted was that formula: if they are here illegally, they have no right to be here. One of Hazelton’s citizens said this in an interview in a cafe. Is her logic, so simple, shared by so many, really valid?

If I drive illegally, do I have no right to drive? If I drink illegally, do I have no right to drink? If I have sex illegally, do I have no right to sex? None of those questions has a direct answer. Most traffic violations are either overlooked, or receive light penalies. In extreme cases, a driver’s license can be revoked. Drinking underage does not suspend one’s right to drink after age 21. And in many cases, laws against sodomy–aimed at homosexuals–were allowed to lapse into oblivion, unenforced, even if they remained on the books.

Doing X illegally does not preclude one from continuing to, or doing so in the future. Indeed, there is a whole list of legislation that is enforced unevenly, at best. Many such laws are misdemeanors, not felonies. And immigrating to the US illegally is not a felony.

Fighting for the short end of the stick? Meetings like this reinforce the sense that poor citizens have something to fear from immigrants, illegal or otherwise. Really, they could use the same arguments to limit legal immigration.

– More than a dozen Charlotteans, many frustrated with growth of the illegal immigrant immigration population, met Saturday to discuss how African Americans are impacted by the growth of the undocumented community.

Maria Macon, chairwoman of the Millions More Movement of Charlotte, which hosted the event at Spencer Memorial United Methodist Church, said that, until now, African American voices have been mostly left out of the immigration debate.

Tensions exist between some groups of African Americans and Hispanics over competition for jobs, decreased wages and the disbanding of certain historically black neighborhoods.

Queen Thompson, 60, worries about a strain on schools and hospitals.

“There must be some regulation on the number of people who can come to a community,” said Thompson, a counseling psychologist.

Limiting access to the community is such a pre-modern idea. After all, in a m0dern republic, anyone can live anywhere because citizenship is granted by the state, and the only meaningful community to which the individual belongs is the nation.

The article continues:

The symposium also demonstrated that illegal immigration issues extend beyond Latin America.

Rosaline Russell, a native of Liberia, said many people from Africa come to the United States in search of a better life.

“It’s not just a Hispanic issue,” said Russell, 29, who moved to the United States eight years ago and is now a U.S. citizen. “It’s also a West Africa issue, an Africa issue. It’s an everybody issue.”

Macon said African-Americas are suffering economically because of the growth of the illegal immigrant community, but that the groups can work together to improve lives and working conditions.

“It’s important that we speak up because we have gone through some of the same things the Hispanic community is going through,” she said.