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P R A E S I D I U M
A Common-Sense Journal of Literary and Cultural Analysis
12.3 (Summer 2012)
the polis vs. progress
courtesy of artrenewal.org
Amnesty, Amity, Amenity… Sing the Refrain Until You Fall Senseless
Peter T. Singleton
I think this world will probably see the end of me before I see the end of “illegal immigration”. Now the whole mess is once again on the political front line, thanks to the Executive Branch’s open contempt for the laws which its members swore to uphold and its corporate, irrepressible eagerness to pit Americans against each other. Like a lot of people, no doubt, I find myself getting worn down in this struggle for the rule of law. I sometimes want to throw up my hands and sigh, “Okay, okay, we’ll give you a ‘win’ this time—but next time you’ll have to play by the rules!” The trouble is that we have collectively been brought to such magnanimous concession before—again and again. And the next round is never played by the rules. In the words chosen by Emilio Romero for his bestselling novel about Spain’s war against communism, la paz empieza nunca—“the peace never begins.”
I confess that I authored an editorial about half a year ago now (published in another space) mildly endorsing Newt Gingrich’s proposal to cut some legal slack for foreign nationals who had resided here for decades and shown themselves to be fully law-abiding (well, except for their residency). It was what you might call an abuelito exception—a break for grandfathers whom Newt represented as having suffered enough. Why chase them away now when they have established themselves as pillars of the community?
Subconsciously, I was probably trying to cut Gingrich himself a lot of slack lest his party end up having to rally behind… its present candidate. And to be sure, there is a certain humanitarian case to be made for these lovable abuelitos in isolation. The maddening thing about this constellation of issues, though, is that one can never isolate one or two stars: they’re all drawn by an invisible but inclusive gravity. If a grandfather, then why not a grandchild? If the very old and very young, then why not the men and women in their prime who keep the whole family going?
Sure enough, although the grandfathers did nothing but lure Grandaddy Newt into a crossfire that proved fatal for his campaign, their grandchildren have now occupied center-stage. Quite apart from the present initiative’s undisguised and inexcusable pimping of rights for votes, the plight of certain young people of dubious legal status appears truly pitiable. One wants to show sympathy. I highly recommend a documentary just released by Dennis M. Lynch, They Come to America. During one sequence, a rally of young people who claim to have been smuggled into the U.S. as innocent babies unfolds with such sniffling and blubbering that an outbreak of mass hysteria seems imminent. The emotional debauch struck me as a little shameful in so many youths who apparently possess both intelligence and education. (Of course, the dismal failure of our educational system is a whole different can of worms.) Nevertheless, it seemed to me that they might have had a legitimate gripe. These kids did nothing wrong. The crime was committed in their behalf, so to speak. What were they supposed to do—pull their little hand out of mamacita’s in the middle of the desert for a moral principle that they wouldn’t have understood even if it had been enunciated to them?
Yet if they stay, how can we send their mother and father away? And if all three stay, then why have any immigration policy at all? Or if these protesters, whose dress and deportment smacked of the college campus, had reached the age of discretion and independence—and you probably know that California’s Ivory Tower throw its gates wide open to the undocumented—then why would sending them home to Mexico as young adults be tantamount to genocide?
“Children who have been raised in America since infancy or early childhood,” the progressive will object shrilly, “should not be forced to return to an environment which will be utterly alien, and hence somewhat hostile, to them. They will not be able to speak the language, will find local customs unfamiliar, will be deprived of all their friends and communal supports, and will in general be cast into a cruel abyss.” Curious, that. I had thought that most illegals were eager eventually to get back to Mexico or Nicaragua. (So several told Lynch.) This argument makes the nations south of our border sound like the ninth circle of Hell. Yet the “refugees” from these same locales are not only refusing to adapt to the American mainstream, but are indeed thrusting their native cultures into our midst. Language is only the most obvious example. The cock fights, the weekend soccer matches, the chickens pecking in the front lawn… such transformations of life in Dallas and Phoenix and Albuquerque—and even in Gastonia and Clemson and Wichita—may be deemed good, bad, or mixed by different arbiters: the specific value judgment of their collective impact upon the broader culture is irrelevant. The point is that they reflect the importation of the old country’s culture. Life in certain parts of San Diego or Santa Fe does not represent any significant cultural disparity with life in Morelia or Guadalajara.
Yet the claim about linguistic incapacity remains the most dubious. A high school girl who was smuggled across the border at the age of two by her parents most definitely did not grow up in a household where English was spoken. On the contrary, American taxpayers footed an enormous bill to have her learn a little English during the three or four hours a day that she spent in actual classes (as opposed to the lunch room or the playground, where some sort of Spanish patois well short of “Spanglish” prevailed). This girl is almost certainly bilingual—and bilingual in the genuine parlance of the demos, not in textbook Castellano and King’s English. (In other words, people shopping in the mall would actually understand her.) As such, she enjoys no end of employment opportunities which few born-and-bred American kids can acquire even after six years of college. Her fluency in the cultures on both sides of the border should represent a tremendous advantage. Why does she need to be pitied and protected for possessing the very kinds of skill for which our kids will incur thirty years of financial debt?
As for leaving friends behind… well, pardon my callousness, but countless “army brats” have grown up in infinitely less stable conditions. Try swapping deportation to Oaxaca at the ripe age of eighteen for living in Seattle, Japan, Frisco, Germany, Richmond, and the Philippines all before the age of sixteen. The latter regimen of upbringing we call “culturally enriching”—as well it may be. The truth is that the net impact of such circumstances upon the child depends upon personality and character. We cannot possibly guarantee a Disneyland setting to every child on the reasoning that the weakest among them require extreme pampering. In that case, we might as well remove every newborn from his natural parents and bestow him upon government-trained-and-certified Superparents. Of course, that, too, is somewhere a little farther down (not much farther) on the progressive “to do” list.
All of that said, I would not be opposed—in the spirit of compromise—to allowing illegally resident children to finish high school before their deportation. The Mexican government, whose bureaucracy is so provocatively, censoriously involved in our internal affairs whenever its citizens break our laws, could perhaps collaborate usefully with American officials to set these young people up in a job upon their return “home”. They could then apply for legal citizenship in the U.S. without prejudice if they so desired.
Not enough jobs in Mexico? Might I suggest that we transplant some of our stupendous volume of outsourcing back to this hemisphere, and let the People’s Republic of China devise other ways to exploit its enslaved population? With its much more friendly regulative climate for drilling oil, Mexico is already beginning to appear the more attractive option for its army of blue-collar workers. If many of them continue to run all the risks and expenses attendant upon entering the U.S. illegally, it can only be because of all the freebees—education, medical care, police protection, food stamps—that our public sector funds with Chinese loans. The house of cards within whose scaffolding our Coliseum of mass welfare has been constructed is ready to topple before the first small breeze. The return of hundreds or thousands of relatively well-educated Mexican-American-Mexicans would in fact benefit that nation, genuinely and sustainably, rather than allow her corrupt governments to keep courting solvency by picking gringo pockets.
I really do feel most sincerely sorry for some of the people interviewed by Lynch (and for others like them whom I know personally). Occasionally I even find that I share their beliefs or convictions much more meaningfully than those littering mainstream America. I too deplore the graphic sex and brutal vulgarity of our entertainment media, I too think that the American female is a captive to her immense egotism and the American male a dog trained to do tricks for dollars, and I too think that one’s family is the source of one’s primary obligations here on earth. My society embarrasses me before the blunt condemnations of these simple people who raised their own food and made their own clothes back in the old country.
Their lot could and would have been much improved a long time ago but for cynical politicians on both sides of the border who manipulate their misery in response to some power-grabbing “narrative”. All of us have been very poorly served by our elected representatives, who deserve every scrap of loathing that we can muster for them.
All the same, the non-negotiable rudiments of any possible political solution (possible, I mean, in a democratic republic rather than a tyranny) will appear harsh by some measures. Every candidate on the Republican side this year has dutifully, even piously repeated that the first of these measures must be to secure the border. I do not disagree: I have simply heard the refrain of that hymn too many times to pay attention to its words. George Bush sang it and ignored it, and the Obama-Napolitano Tabernacle Choir has added a resonant finish to it. Pardon me if I ask, Secure the border and what, besides? The four points below are my “besides”:
1) Congress must clarify citizenship so that the grotesque phenomenon of the “anchor baby” disappears into the back room of historical curiosities;
2) Illegal residents, if allowed to remain in the U.S., must on no account be granted the right to vote in any federal, state, or local election. If eventually granted regular citizenship of a sort that includes full voting rights, they must incur wait—with an adequate display of good behavior—of significant proportions, as in a penalty exacted;
3) No arrangement must be permitted which would allow the beneficiary of official clemency to import more foreign nationals (family members, etc.) into the country by any means not already considered legal;
4) The nation must address the economic dysfunction which has caused this problem to mushroom over the past decade—including the outsourcing precipitated by so-called free trade agreements (which has placed domestic producers at an insurmountable disadvantage) and the proliferation of bullying labor unions (which has raised the cost of doing legal business above the profit margin).
Legal Americans descended from Latin origins would welcome an honest and profound discussion of such issues, I am convinced. At any rate, there are quite enough responsible citizens among this demographic that the Republican Party need not chase them down stupidly with counter-offers of more freebees for yet more border-hopping relatives. Hispanic Americans resent being demonized or seeing their ethnic brethren demonized, as all of us can comprehend; but many of them also resent the mind-numbing condescension with which the elite of both Parties are courting them. The real bad guys here are our “leaders”.
Peter Singleton, Ph.D., lives in semi-retirement in the North Texas area. He devotes himself to writing and to teaching undergraduate classes at local colleges. His book Return to Chivalry is available on this site as a free download.