Saturday, February 17, 2007

a nation of immigrants

The American Immigration Law Foundation has a summary up of a University of Arizona study showing that border deaths have increased dramatically since the enactment of more strict immigration policies in 1996.

In the mid-1990s, the U.S. governments deterrence approach to immigration control militarized the U.S.-Mexico border, closed off major urban points of unauthorized migration in Texas and California, and funneled hundreds of thousands of unauthorized immigrants through southern Arizonas deserts and mountains. As a result, immigrant deaths along the border have increased dramatically. Experts estimate that the bodies of 2,000 to 3,000 immigrants have been found along the Southwest border since 1995. According to one expert, this border has been more than 10 times deadlier to migrants from Mexico during the past nine years than the Berlin Wall was to East Germans throughout its 28-year existence.

Fortunately, Mexicans don’t vote in our elections, so we don’t have to care if they die in the desert. In fact, the Arizona funnel should be viewed as a legitimate civil defense tactic for use against the “obscene alliance of corporate supremacists, desperate labor unions, certain ethnocentric Latino activist organizations and a majority of our elected officials in Washington” who have conspired to crush the long-suffering white American middle class under the jackboot of Mayan oppression.

Dammit, if I have to contemplate one more carefully-mowed suburban lawn or neatly-trimmed hedge, efficiently-harvested field of fruits or vegetables, or spic and span office building or hotel room in this great land and the literally dozens of dollars we pay these people to work each day, dollars that could be used instead to fight the forces of evil overseas, I think I’ll be sick.

We know, thanks to heroes like Dobbs, O’Reilly, and Beck, that we don’t want to let in people who simply want to be underpaid to do backbreaking, often dangerous work. But what about the right sort of immigrant, the one who has built his fortune on the hard work of others or better yet, gotten it the old fashioned way, from his parents? Isn’t there a way to let him in, quietly and without too much fuss?

Thankfully, there is. A cool half a million will do the trick. From the Economist:

Wads of cash, obliging bureaucrats, and an urgent need for fresh travel papers are a connection that in most countries is dealt with by the police. But there is a respectable end to the trade. In most rich countries a hefty investment brings a visa that can eventually turn into a passport: $500,000 typically secures an American “investor visa”. For the British equivalent it is £200,000 ($392,000). But three countries—Austria, and the Caribbean island states of St Kitts and Dominica—have refined the process further, offering citizenship, in effect, for cash.

What could be more American than that? The only question is why, with budget deficits stretching as far as the eye can see, we don’t take the Austrian approach and make more money off of incoming immigrants (immigrants or their employers are already required to pay the government anywhere from $500 to a couple thousand dollars to become legal, if they are eligible through family members or employment). After all, illegal immigrants pay thousands of dollars to coyotes or snakeheads just to sneak into the country, money that could go instead directly into the public coffers. What’s that you say? Citizenship is a sacred collection of rights and duties that shouldn’t be commodified? And it’s the only thing that separates an American from a Mexican, or, god forbid, an Iranian? Friend, I sense that you’ve argued yourself into a corner.

One shouldn’t expect too much coherence or rationality from the U.S. immigration system. Think of it instead as you might a religious text—to be approached with flexible reasoning and unwavering faith in an omniscient, benevolent executive.

I’ll leave you with a thought from the Champion of the Middle Class, Defender of the American Way, CNN’s Great White Hope:

We are a nation of immigrants, and there is no more diverse and welcoming society than ours.


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