Thursday, December 08, 2005

Against illegal immigration

explains that Americans aren't against immigration, but illegal immigration. She offers this personal anecdote:
I recently found out through one of her daughters that my grandmother spent her first night in America on a park bench in downtown Manhattan. She had made her way from Ireland to Ellis Island, and a cousin was to meet the ship. It was about 1920. The cousin didn't show. So Mary Dorian, age roughly 20, all alone, with no connections and no relatives interested enough to remember her arrival in the new world, spent her first night in America alone on a bench, in the dark, in a strange country. Later she found her way to Brooklyn and became a bathroom attendant at the big Abraham & Straus department store on Fulton Street. (It's now a Macy's. I buy Christmas gifts there.)

Two generations after my grandmother arrived, I was in the Oval Office of the American president saying, "I think you oughta." And amazingly enough he was listening.

In two generations. Two.

What a country.
She also explains here philosophical opposition to illegal immigration.
The questions I bring to the subject are not about the flow of capital, the imminence of globalism, or the implications of uncontrolled immigration on the size and cost of the welfare state. They just have to do with what it is to be human.

What does it mean that your first act on entering a country--your first act on that soil--is the breaking of that country's laws? What does it suggest to you when that country does nothing about your lawbreaking because it cannot, or chooses not to? What does that tell you? Will that make you a better future citizen, or worse? More respecting of the rule of law in your new home, or less?

If you assume or come to believe that that nation will not enforce its own laws for reasons that are essentially cynical, that have to do with the needs of big business or the needs of politicians, will that assumption or belief make you more or less likely to be moved by that country, proud of that country, eager to ally yourself with it emotionally, psychologically and spiritually?

When you don't earn something or suffer to get it, do you value it less highly? If you value it less highly, will you bother to know it, understand it, study it? Will you bother truly to become part of it? When you are allowed to join a nation for free, as it were, and without the commitment of years of above-board effort, do you experience your joining that country as a blessing or as a successful con? If the latter, what was the first lesson America taught you?

These are questions that I think are behind a lot of the more passionate opposition to illegal immigration.

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