Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The New York Times: “The Great Panic,” Excellent Editorial on the Current State of the Immigration Debate

(What follows is the New York Times editorial published on June 3, 2008.)


Someday, the country will recognize the true cost of its war on illegal immigration. We don’t mean dollars, though those are being squandered by the billions. The true cost is to the national identity: the sense of who we are and what we value. It will hit us once the enforcement fever breaks, when we look at what has been done and no longer recognize the country that did it.

A nation of immigrants is holding another nation of immigrants in bondage, exploiting its labor while ignoring its suffering, condemning its lawlessness while sealing off a path to living lawfully. The evidence is all around that something pragmatic and welcoming at the American core has been eclipsed, or is slipping away.

The company that harnessed their desperation, like so many others, has faced no charges.

An escalating campaign of raids in homes and workplaces has spread indiscriminate terror among millions of people who pose no threat. After the largest raid ever last month — at a meatpacking plant in Iowa — hundreds were swiftly force-fed through the legal system and sent to prison. Civil-rights lawyers complained, futilely, that workers had been steamrolled into giving up their rights, treated more as a presumptive criminal gang than as potentially exploited workers who deserved a fair hearing. The company that harnessed their desperation, like so many others, has faced no charges.

Immigrants in detention languish without lawyers and decent medical care even when they are mortally ill. Lawmakers are struggling to impose standards and oversight on a system deficient in both. Counties and towns with spare jail cells are lining up for federal contracts as prosecutions fill the system to bursting. Unbothered by the sight of blameless children in prison scrubs, the government plans to build up to three new family detention centers. Police all over are checking papers, empowered by politicians itching to enlist in the federal crusade.

This is not about forcing people to go home and come back the right way. Ellis Island is closed. Legal paths are clogged or do not exist. Some backlogs are so long that they are measured in decades or generations. A bill to fix the system died a year ago this month. The current strategy, dreamed up by restrictionists and embraced by Republicans and some Democrats, is to force millions into fear and poverty.

The American public’s moderation on immigration reform, confirmed in poll after poll, begs the candidates to confront the issue with courage and a plan.

There are few national figures standing firm against restrictionism. Senator Edward Kennedy has bravely done so for four decades, but his Senate colleagues who are running for president seem by comparison to be in hiding. John McCain supported sensible reform, but whenever he mentions it, his party starts braying and he leaves the room. Hillary Rodham Clinton has lost her voice on this issue more than once. Barack Obama, gliding above the ugliness, might someday test his vision of a new politics against restrictionist hatred, but he has not yet done so. The American public’s moderation on immigration reform, confirmed in poll after poll, begs the candidates to confront the issue with courage and a plan. But they have been vague and discreet when they should be forceful and unflinching.

The restrictionist message is brutally simple — that illegal immigrants deserve no rights, mercy or hope. It refuses to recognize that illegality is not an identity; it is a status that can be mended by making reparations and resuming a lawful life. Unless the nation contains its enforcement compulsion, illegal immigrants will remain forever Them and never Us, subject to whatever abusive regimes the powers of the moment may devise.

Every time this country has singled out a group of newly arrived immigrants for unjust punishment, the shame has echoed through history. Think of the Chinese and Irish, Catholics and Americans of Japanese ancestry. Children someday will study the Great Immigration Panic of the early 2000s, which harmed countless lives, wasted billions of dollars and mocked the nation’s most deeply held values.


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25 comments:

Bartman said...
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Bartman said...
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zeezil said...

Civil rights pertain ONLY to citizens.

The Merriam-Webster online Dictionary defines civil-rights as: “The nonpolitical rights of a citizen; especially: the rights of personal liberty guaranteed to U.S. citizens by the 13th and 14th amendments to the Constitution and by acts of Congress.” If one is not a citizen of the country, civil rights do not apply.

ragemail said...

Zeezil, I've seen your postings littering the web for some time. In fact, I even wrote about you in my post on Geraldo Rivera's book, which can be found at: http://eristic-ragemail.blogspot.com/2008/03/geraldo-rivera-and-zeitgeist-of-new.html. I will allow comments on this blog that are respectful and that add something to the discussion. With that proviso, and in response to your posting, I only note that the New York Times editorial referenced in my post makes the argument that the current administration's anti-immigrant policy is unjust and unethical. As well, the editorial argues that the current policy is short-sighted and not in the best interests of the country. One does not need to be a U.S. citizen to merit ethical and just treatment. Most ethical human beings accord such treatment to other human beings.

Bartman said...

I will allow comments on this blog that are respectful and that add something to the discussion.

What about my post did not add to the discussion? I merely pointed out the sheer raving fanatical hypocrisy of the New York Times claiming that the enforcement measure are unfair because illegal aliens are getting slapped with criminal charges but not businesses. That fact is that the pro-enforcement wing VERY MUCH WANTS businesses slapped with fines and/or criminal charges. They (we) think that fining businesses is the most effective (and cost effective) method of immigration enforcement.

The so-called "hypocrisy" is being created by people (George W Bush, etc.) who want open borders.

Respectful and pertinent, but you deleted. You prefer an echo chamber blog that nobody reads to one people actually bother to visit.

But that, I guess, is the modus operandi of the open borders La Razists - can't beat 'em with facts, so beat 'em with censorship, cries of racism, and outright demagoguery; adopt and abandon completely contradictory standards as it suits you.

ragemail said...

Bart, I would not call your comment respectful or informative. As for adding to the discussion, you clearly mischaracterize the substance of the New York Times editorial. As the editorial succinctly put it: "A nation of immigrants is holding another nation of immigrants in bondage, exploiting its labor while ignoring its suffering, condemning its lawlessness while sealing off a path to living lawfully." This is a much larger and profound issue than the methods of enforcement. It is a question of simple human decency and the values that define us as a nation and as a civilization.

As for the name-calling and the tone of your comment, I will leave your comment as is, since it more clearly reflects YOUR values and the nativists on whose behalf you speak..

Bartman said...

As for adding to the discussion, you clearly mischaracterize the substance of the New York Times editorial.

I wasn't discussing the substance of the editorial - I was discussing your version of it on your blog, with the hypocrisy vis-a-vis enforcement line in big bold red type.


As the editorial succinctly put it: "A nation of immigrants is holding another nation of immigrants in bondage...

They are perfectly free to leave. When do they get scared only when we try to make them leave?

exploiting its labor while ignoring its suffering,

I am against this exploitation of their labor - that's why I want enforcement. The open borders types seem to be quite fond of it, however.

They have no right to come here and undercut American wages, and allowing businesses to lower their safety standards then complain about the wages and safety standards.

The fact is that this tolerance of illegal immigration (or even just mass immigration, period) is what allows businesses to exploit and mistreat workers - and it's happening all over the world.

Ya wanna know another secret? If the US secured its borders and sent the illegals home many businesses would have no choice but to invest in Mexico.

If you're interested in the welfare of the Mexican people then such an argument might sway you. But if your only goal is Reconquista then the "welfare" of Mexicans is little more than a cover for bad motives.


condemning its lawlessness while sealing off a path to living lawfully."

Question: given a choice between enforcement and maintaining the current lawlessness, which would the NYT (and you) choose? You and I both knoe the answer to that.

As for "sealing off a path to living lawfully?" The roads bac to Mexico are open. They're free to use them. I hear the lines to get into Mexico are much shorter than the lines to get out.

This is a much larger and profound issue than the methods of enforcement. It is a question of simple human decency and the values that define us as a nation and as a civilization.

Define us how? The purpose of our nation's laws and government are to "ensure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity." In the modern democratic, enlightened world, that is the goal of any government.

Simple human decency demands fairness. Fairness means reciprocity. Why are the demands for open borders always in one direction? Why are nations like Israel, India, Mexico, Korea, and and Japan perfectly free to maintain "racist" and/or "inhumane" immigration policies without criticism or censure? Surely if you're going to demand essentially open borders then at least with all and every fairness to American you would give to us the same right you expect for your own people. What, besides racism, would be the motive for denying it?

A few years ago the United Kingdom granted full UK pasports to residents of some of the UK's overseas territories. The legislation enacted gave them full access to the UK but denied UK citizens reciprocal access to their islands. In an excellent article on global immigration, Anthony Browne described it well:

This liberal hypocrisy was perfectly illustrated in 2002, when the British government gave full UK passports to 200,000 people living in British overseas territories, such as St. Helena, Montserrat and the Turks & Caicos islands. The inhabitants were allowed to live in Britain, but there was no reciprocal right for British people to live there.

The justification for this one-sidedness was given in the House of Lords by the foreign office minister Valerie Amos:

“The right of abode is non-reciprocal. The territories which fall within the scope of the Bill are for the most part small islands. In consultations on the content of the Bill the governments of the territories concerned made clear that granting British and European citizens the right of abode in their territories would risk fundamentally altering the social, cultural and economic fabric of the territories.”

Britain too is a small island, yet other British government ministers tell the British people that they must embrace mass immigration, and that it is simply racist for British people to oppose the altering of their country’s social, cultural and economic fabric. What makes the Caribbean and South Atlantic islanders noble in defending their culture, and the British racist in defending theirs?

What, indeed.

ragemail said...

Bart, I appreciate your willingness to debate this issue without resorting to name-calling. The substance of your last comment appears to be that we, as a country, (and I am part of this country) cannot afford to carry the "influx" of Mexican or Latin American immigrants. As well, you seem to have objections to their method of entry, "unlawful entry." The issue of assimilation and capacity were recently addressed by Jacob Vigdor, Associate Professor of Public Policy Studies and Economics at Duke University, who reported that the latest wave of immigrants is actually assimilating at a faster rate than previous generations of immigrants. When you factor in legal status, Latin Americans assimilate at rate equal to or higher than Asian immigrants. As for comparisons to Japan and Britain, well we are not a small island with limited resources. We clearly can and likely need to carry more people if we are not to suffer the fate of Japan and Italy where the lack of younger workers is forcing some harsh economic realities. Latin Americans would not be here, were there not a demand for their labor.

In regard to the nature of American society, even if you removed every single undocumented Latin American worker you would still have millions of Mexican-Americans (never mind the fact that all Puerto Ricans are citizens) so we, Latinos, are going to have an effect on American society. And that is as it should be. I think we are a richer and better nation as a result of our wonderful diversity.

zeezil said...

Your heart can bleed all it wants for illegal aliens, ragemail. I agree that they deserve to receive humane treatment. However, that does not absolve them from being arrested, prosecuted, incarcerated and deported.

ragemail said...

"I agree that they deserve to receive humane treatment..." Do you think it is humane to incarcerate whole families, including children? Do you think it's humane to incarcerate people who have merely overstayed their visas? Do you think it is humane to deny them visits by family, pastors and attorneys? Do you think it is humane to incarcerate people who have committed no crimes? By the way, being undocumented is not a crime (contrary to the rantings of Lou Dobbs and company.) Prisoners at Guantanamo get more rights. What part of "humane treatment" needs clarification? Come on Zeezil! Get real.

Bartman said...

The substance of your last comment appears to be that we, as a country, (and I am part of this country) cannot afford to carry the "influx" of Mexican or Latin American immigrants.

Our population growth, no matter whence it comes, is too much, too quickly. They could all be of British descent, such as I, and I would still oppose it. The Southwest is straining under the growth. The Colorado River runs dry to the sea. Lake Mead and Lake Powell, two of our largest levels, are near their lowest levels in decades. California is facing a severe drought. 36 states - not just the arid Southwest - are facing imminent water shortages. At a time when the price of oil is soaring, average commute times are soaring.

Since 1979, the top 1% of American earners have gone from taking home 8.9% of the income to taking home 21.2% of income (2005), while actual wages at the bottom have stagnated or even shrunk. This happened at the same time as a massive wave of both legal and illegal immigration occurred, and there is good reason to think the two are connected. The Chamber of Commerce, the National Restaurant Association and all those other business lobbies aren't charities - they know what they're fighting for, and there's a reason they're spending tens (or hundreds) of millions annually to fight and lobby for open borders.


As well, you seem to have objections to their method of entry, "unlawful entry."

I do, because it creates disrespect for the law. Why should the average citizen obey little laws when big businesses are getting away with hiring millions of illegals?

But illegal immigration is just the easiest target. Too much is too much, whether it's legal or illegal. But why dicker over legal immigration levels when people will come here anyway?

The issue of assimilation and capacity were recently addressed by Jacob Vigdor...

My objection is not about assimilation, mostly - it is mostly economic and environmental. There are a myriad of other studies showing the opposite - that assimilation is slower than before.

I do have some objections based on what some very touchy people might consider "racist motives." Namely two:

1) That groups of non-whites are ardently organizing politially specifically to secure political advantages for their races, like minority set asides for government and business contracts, affirmative action, hate crimes laws, anti-free speech laws, etc. They are even trying to force private charities to give more of private money to minorities, and there is substantial evidence that the late housing crisis is due to efforts by these groups to force banks to lower their lending standards to groups (i.e., blacks and hispanics) unqualified for traditonal home loans.

Think of the damage and chaos that last item alone has caused our economy.

2) That, be it as it may, different races do have a habit of voting differently. (Leftist groups celebrate this - why can't I at least take it into account?) If, as a whole, I say I'd prefer Policy X, and - thanks to the votes of immigrants and their descendants - I think we'll end up with Policy Y instead, I do have a moral right to take that into consideration, no?

Take the last great wave of immigrants, which disproportionately consisted of Catholics and Jews. Now before their arrival the US government was smaller and in US public schools a Protestant version of Christianity was taught. Over the last century the size of our government has soared and such teachings have been virtually wiped from the schools, often at the behest of...Catholics and Jews.

Now I am not saying or implying that I'd rather they had not come, or that they're evil or any such thing. I'm not saying that the change was good or bad. I have no very serious opinion on the matter, in fact. I'm merely using it as an example of how immigration can change the policies of a nation in significant ways.

Another great example: California used to be considered a swing state in national elections. California actually voted for Republican candidates in the 1980, 1984, and 1988 elections. Today it has gotten to be almost unwinnable by Republicans.

As for comparisons to Japan and Britain, well we are not a small island with limited resources.

WE, like all nations, have finite space and resources. And Japan and Britain are veritable garden isles compared to the US, where much of the land is in places like Alaska, the arid Southwest, and North Dakota and Minnesota (ever been in International Falls in January?)

Moreover, we do not have to wait until we are at their levels of population density until we do something. We have the right to decide what level of population density is right for us.


We clearly can and likely need to carry more people if we are not to suffer the fate of Japan and Italy where the lack of younger workers is forcing some harsh economic realities.

Our population is still growing even without immigration. Native births account for about 30% of the growth rates. What's more, immigrants get old, too, and there is substantial data showing that the ratio or worker to retiree will change very little due to immigration. What's more critical is tha ratio of workers to non-workers (which includes children). That ratio will get much higher thanks to mass immigration, and that bodes ill for the US.


Latin Americans would not be here, were there not a demand for their labor.

There is demand for labor everywhere. If businesses are paying $20 an hour they'd rather pay $10. If they're paying 24 cents an hour they'd rather pay 5. In many countries around the world businesses are using immigrants as a way to undercut the rights and wages of the native populations.



In regard to the nature of American society, even if you removed every single undocumented Latin American worker you would still have millions of Mexican-Americans (never mind the fact that all Puerto Ricans are citizens) so we, Latinos, are going to have an effect on American society.

It is not my goal or desire to remove Latinos who are legally here. THEY have as much right to be here as I do. The 12-15 million Latinos who are here illegally do not.

William said...
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zeezil said...

Being "undocumented" (having entered into the country illegally) is a crime, ragemail:

Illegal Immigration IS A CRIME:

8 U.S.C. 1325 = illegal entry.
" (a) Improper time or place; avoidance of examination or inspection;
misrepresentation and concealment of facts Any alien who (1) enters or attempts to enter the United States at any time or place other than as designated by immigration officers, or (2) eludes examination or inspection by immigration officers, or (3) attempts to enter or obtains entry to the United States by a willfully false or misleading representation or the willful concealment of a material fact, shall, for the first commission of any such offense, be fined under title 18 or imprisoned not more than 6 months, or both, and, for a subsequent commission of any such offense, be fined under title 18, or imprisoned not more than 2 years, or both."

ragemail said...

Zeezil, calling undocumented workers "criminals" is merely another way of dehumanizing them. Being undocumented is not a crime. Take it from ex-U.S. Attorney, Republican Rudy Giuliani: A Dream Deferred has a post titled Being Illegal Is Not A Crime where America’s mayor (who sadly became America’s anti-migrant mayor to win the Republican nomination) is interviewed by Glenn Beck who states being an undocumented migrant is illegal. Giuliani corrects him and says that they are in fact not “illegal”.

From the video:

Beck – “but isn’t illegal immigration a crime in and of itself”

Giuliani – “no”

Beck – “but aren’t you saying….you’re protecting criminals by saying that being treated as a criminal is unfair.”

Giuliani – “Glenn, it’s not a crime (laughs). I know that’s very hard for people to understand, but it’s not a federal crime.”

Beck – “It’s a misdemeanor, but if you’ve been nailed it is a crime – if you’ve been nailed shipped back and you come back it is a crime.”

Giuliani – “Glenn, being an ‘illegal’ immigrant – the 400,000 were not prosecuted for crimes by the federal government nor could they be. I was U.S. attorney in the southern district of New York – believe me I know this. In fact when you throw an immigrant out of the country it’s not a criminal proceeding – it’s a civil proceeding.”

Beck – “Is it, is it…….”

Giuliani – “One of the things that congress wanted to do a year ago is to make it a crime which indicates that it isn’t.”

Beck – “Should it be?”

Giuliani – “Should it be? No, it shouldn’t be because the government wouldn’t be able to prosecute it. We couldn’t persecute 12 million people.”


It is not a crime to be in the U.S. without permission.

William said...

It's not a question of whether it's a crime or not - it's a question of whether it harms American citizens or not.

We have these arguments all the time about whether something should be a crime - animal abuse, hate crimes, abortion, and so on.

There are plenty of things which aren't crimes which legislatures can make crimes. There are some things which used to be crimes (sodomy) but no longer are. Otherwise you're just using circular logic: "Illegal immigration can't be made a crime because it's not a crime."

Identity theft is a big problem largely because of illegal immigration.

ragemail said...

Bart, I'm going to leave your post even though it advocates a racist position. I mean blaming the subprime mortgage crisis on Latinos and Blacks. Come on man, that is straight up racism.

The environmental argument is really quite pernicious. As a society we consume vastly greater amounts of resources than other countries. To argue that we can't let any more people into this country because we want to keep driving SUVs, building 8 lane highways, running air conditioners at all hours and generally wasting the earth's resources is, to say the least, hypocritical.

Finally, arguing that immgrants are changing our society is a perennial nativist canard. As for the change in California, this is the result of citizens voting -- not undocumented immigrants, who clearly cannot vote. It sounds to me as if you object to the changes brought about by the growth of the Latino population rather than by any change brought about by undocumented immigrants. As I have argued in prior posts, much nativist rancor is really anti-Latino animus. I am not saying that you favor this, but certainly the folks at VDare, NumbersUSA and FAIR would certainly like to expel all Latinos.

This does not directed to you in particular, but offensive, racist, obnoxious and plainly direspectful posts will be deleted.

ragemail said...

William, Zeezil claimed it was a crime as have countless other nativists who constantly scream, "all illegals are criminals." So the answer is NO, undocumented immigrants are not criminals. As for what is best for the U.S., I do not believe persecuting hard-working people, breaking up families and driving people underground is in the best interests of the country. If you want to create an underclass, rife with crime, then let ICE continue to create fear and distrust amongst Latinos towards all authority.

zeezil said...
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Bartman said...
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zeezil said...
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William Bartman said...
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zeezil said...
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zeezil said...
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