A Rosa by any other name

The immigration debate rages on.  I was sent a post attributed to Ben Stein who found it paradoxical that our government would require people to carry proof of insurance, but not proof of citizenship.  That circulated through the conservative blogosphere because it seemed like a slam dunk double standard.

A closer look shows that it doesnt hold water.

It is pretty commonplace, especially in today’s political arguments, to use two different concepts, but to combine their vague similarity to drive a point.  In this case, the point is that (Obama) government mandates have double standards.  But, Stein (allegedly) draws his clever juxtaposition from two concepts with vastly different purposes.

Compulsory insurance became a reality soon after America realized that drivers are prone to accidents.  As early as 1925 some states adopted compulsory insurance laws and by the 1970’s every state had complied.  The reasons are myriad and logical:

There is a risk of nonpayment in car accidents. Personal financial responsibility laws are inadequate to remedy the risk of nonpaying, at- fender-benderfault, drivers and the best way to ensure that at-fault drivers will pay for damage they cause is to require insurance before registration, and to penalize drivers if they fail to meet this requirement.

What it was not was a tyrannical conspiracy by government to control its citizenry.

So, this brings us to Proof of Citizenship.  If we carry the implied logic from the comment above a step further, Stein is saying, if we are to be consistent, that ALL citizens should be required to carry papers.

But, that’s not going to fly, is it?  Not in a free country.  Tell a farmer in Nebraska or a machinist in Michigan that he has to have his citizenship papers with him at allPeople-Standing-Up-to-the-Police times.  It wouldn’t take more than a Cliven Bundy minute before “real” citizens would revolt crying, “Fascism!”  And they’d be correct.

We are not a police state.  Our freedom extends to every citizen and that means that we are not required to carry our Citizenship Papers in order to pass freely.

Or…was Stein’s insinuation that only “suspect” citizens should have to carry papers?  What does that America look like?  Caucasians of European ancestry need not worry, but…if you’re a little too brown you best carry your papers?

Perhaps, we should add a clause to the 14th amendment, which defines citizenship, that also defines the physical characteristics of “true” Americans.

Absurd?  You bet, but that’s where this goes if you dig into the comment.

Perhaps, what those opposed to immigration reform are saying is that “if you are a LEGAL immigrant you shall, upon your acceptance, be required to carry your papers to prove your status.”

Well…that’s just as absurd.

Let’s say I was a legal German immigrant, living and working in America, raising my family, voting and paying my taxes.  Why should I have to carry papers while my neighbor from South Dakota does not?  Isn’t a citizen a citizen?  How can this be a nation founded on an unbiased ideal of freedom if some “citizens” have more freedom than others.

Again, it simply wouldn’t fly.

So, we are faced with:  “What’s the solution to the immigration problem?”

First of all, the question being asked is not asking for the correct solution because the problem being addressed is not the problem that needs to be solved.

Say wha-aat???

The immigration “PROBLEM” isn’t what we’re being told. Illegal immigrants are not taking our jobs and they are not exhausting our health services and welfare. The Associated Press reported that there were worker shortages in Alabama and Georgia after strict immigration laws and mandatory deportation were implemented in those states.  It turns out that “non-immigrants” didn’t like the grueling work of picking crops, and farmers stuck in a agricultural system struggled to find replacements.

When undocumented workers fled, farmers lost around 40% of their workers and $140 million worth of blueberries, melons, onions, and other crops due to labor shortages.

Also, life isn’t free.  For anybody. Even illegal immigrants are consumers, and if they’re not paying compulsory income taxes already, they are certainly paying regressive taxes.  They are not the burden on our country that many want us to believe.

Here’s a surprising statistic:  Illegal workers contribute 1% more to the US economy than the burden of their cost.

Alan Greenspan, former Chairman of the Federal Reserve, stated before the Senate Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees, and Border Security:

“There is little doubt that unauthorized (illegal) immigration has made a significant contribution to the growth of our economy.  Between 2000 and 2007, for example, it accounted for more than a sixth of the increase in our total civilian labor force….Unauthorized immigrants serve as a flexible component of our workforce, often a safety valve when demand is pressing and among the first to be discharged when the economy falters.”

immigrantsMost immigrants did not come here to feed off of our welfare, to rob banks, or to inflict disease upon us (as recent conservative posts have implied) they came here to create a better life for their families (“Bring us your tired, your poor”….remember that invitation?).

They came here to work and to provide, and they would prefer to contribute.

So, the PROBLEM….

The problem is that immigration cannot be an open door; there is not an unlimited resource that is called America and so we must have immigration laws.  Breaking the law is breaking the law and there have to be consequences and usually that will beborder-fence deportation.

But the SOLUTION is to strengthen our borders; not with multi-billion dollar walls, but to put more officers on those borders, with more equipment.

We also need to examine our immigration laws.  Immigration processes should be amended to allow for better “legal” immigration.  Present immigration requirements are endless and virtually impossible.  There is no “waiting line” but rather processes of endless bureaucratic red tape.

There is a price to the freedom we embrace and defend.  Freedom is vulnerable and its realization can lead to consequences that are unfavorable even to a majority, but we have to accept some of those risks in order to maintain the integrity of that freedom.  That doesn’t mean that we don’t vigorously try and correct flaws, but we must do it judiciously, compassionately and legally.

germanOnce we begin to allow our fears to confine the reach of freedom and justice, we minimize what it means to be free, and then we really will be on a path toward a different kind of America.

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