Thursday, July 29, 2010

Arizona Hotspot

Wow! Drama in the Desert! Shoot-out at the OK Corral! Arizona moves to disrupt illegal immigration, and the Federal Government steps in to block it. Sounds like a lot of high-level politics, but the issues are really much more complex…as they always are. The target in blocking immigration is to control the movement of illegal substances and human trafficking—both issues the state has a stake in. But the way they did it steps on the toes of the Federal government, who retains the right to regularize immigration policy across all our border states. And then there is the complicated situation of illegal immigrants who come over to the US to do honest work for an honest day's wage, because such is not available in Mexico. They are not trafficking in drugs or people, yet they get caught up in the net as well, because the law doesn't distinguish. Obama has concluded, along with his predecessor, that an overhaul of immigration law is in order, and that it can hardly be done piecemeal. Arizona apparently can't wait for the Feds to get their act together.

One can argue that breaking the law is breaking the law. But how about when the law breaks good people? How about when the law is broken in the first place? I think this is precisely the point. How much richer has the US society and economy been over the mere 400 years that Europeans have been in this neck of the woods because we have welcomed immigrants? How much of the economy of the border states with Mexico hinges on precisely the labor of undocumented workers? (Much more than you think.) Or are we deciding that the Lady Liberty's famous invitation to the poor, the homeless and the destitute no longer applies?

Nobody invited the Europeans to this continent, and when we met resistance to our arrival we generally responded with force. It was a unilateral move met with a mixture of welcome and dismay by the locals, whose ancestors moved into a continent uninhabited by humans at least 10,000 years ago, perhaps longer. When this all comes down in the end, I would hope that we can remember our own past and the mercy that was shown us (willingly or unwillingly,) and legislate some compassion, and not be so tight-assed about building fences to keep good people out.