Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Stealth Amnesty

A bipartisan group of senators delivered America from the latest incarnation of immigration amnesty when they voted down the DREAM Act over the weekend. But this is not the death of amnesty. The tricks and dishonest maneuvers will no doubt continue in forms we cannot now even imagine. There are a couple of objections that I feel are fatal to this latest attempt at stealth amnesty.
There was one persistent and common argument advanced for the DREAM Act. The act, it was said, was designed to deal with the situation of kids who had grown up in America and know no other home. It was argued that it is unkind and unfair to send these poor kids to some foreign land of which they know nothing. A kind and caring person would see their sad plight and give them the American citizenship that will solve their problem.
The suggestible portion of the listener’s brain might respond to this hectoring about caring and compassion by imagining itself in the place of the misunderstood immigrant. You might construct mental pictures of yourself yanked from your comfortable life and suddenly placed in a totally foreign and hostile environment. If this is all that happens this trick of emotional blackmail and manipulation might be successful in turning the listener into another advocate for amnesty. Or one might raise above the instinctive fear of being thought unkind and look at more than just one’s own emotional landscape. Maybe my situation and that of the immigrant are not alike enough for this exercise of emotional identification to be sufficiently informative.
First and second generation immigrants do not live in the same middle class, white bread world that I live in. Immigrants tend to gather in and form communities of immigrants from their country of origin. So these kids congregate with and socialize with others of similar background who continue habits and traditions from the country of origin. They continue to speak the language of their country of origin. They are betwixt and between: neither fish nor fowl. America is actually a foreign country to them and many of them see themselves as citizens of their parent’s country first and as Americans only second. There is good reason to wonder if they would be honest when swearing an oath of allegiance. Not exactly the ideal now while the US is at war and daily in danger of civil strife caused by citizens who side with our enemies. The world these imigrants inhabit daily is not so foreign to their home country. I have no sense that they are so comfortable with moving the other direction: they do not seem to be willing integrate more fully into American culture except on their own terms and then only where there is real benefit to them.
This is exacerbated by attitudes frequently noted among many who claim they would be the beneficiaries of the DREAM Act. First, their many public acts demonstrate a total lack of respect for the laws they would be asked to begin following one day. Their actions frequently communicate the message, “Screw you. Screw your laws. We will only obey laws that we find convenient. And if you want us to abide by the law you need to write them the way we want them.” Do we need this in a world that is challenging and complicated enough already? What reason is there to imagine that they would ever become loyal citizens when their behavior thus far reveals them to see loyalty and benefits flowing only in a one way street that leads to them?
When the DREAMers talk about the effect of the act one gets the impression that it is designed to give deserved relief to star student athletes who are academic wunderkinds. There might even be a few hundred who meet this definition and would be given a path to citizenship by the act. Bit there are hundreds of thousands of others who would become citizens who are never spoken of. You have to wonder why the act’s proponents shun a full discussion and endlessly steer the discussion to the few gut wrenching examples that are not very representative. The fact that Reid maneuvered the vote into a very atypical weekend session to be taken by a pack of lame duck lets us know how afraid Reid is of full public disclosure.
My reaction is: not this, not now, not with this package of lies and not by means of these tricks and games.

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