Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Illegal Immigration, The LDS Church, You, and I

Last Friday the LDS church again made mention of its specific immigration policy.  Again, there was heated debate over why the church would do something like this.  Does it mean that we don't believe in the Thirteen Articles of Faith?  Does it mean that the church PR department is off the rails?  Does it mean that they're just wrongheaded and don't know what they're talking about.  All these are issues that I'll comment on, however, this is just one guy's opinion.  I want to preface this with that.  Just because my opinion is different than yours doesn't mean that either one of us is "right."  Neither does it mean that either one of us is good or bad.  They're just opinions.  Hopefully I can add to the discussion.
  • Why does the LDS church support HB116 when it clearly is a violation of the law?
I think there are a couple of reasons for this.  Because I'm not a representative of the church, it's hard for me to say what they are, however, they did articulate some of them in their statement.  First, by pushing just enforcement, it kills compassion towards illegal immigrants.  Rather than giving them a helping hand, it kicks them to the ground.  It drives them into the arms of criminals and others who can protect them, rather than allowing them to be open, fruitful members of society.
I'm going to use an example from literature here.  Imagine you are Jean Valjean.  You steal a loaf of bread and suddenly you are in prison.  Then, you get out of prison, you get the work card that says you are a prisoner and it's difficult to get honest work because of that yellow ticket.  What does he do?  He turns to crime again.  What stops him?  A priest who shows him a better way...which again, involves breaking the law.  That's what we're doing to illegal immigrants.  They come here looking for a better life for their families, but soon find that it's a lot harder than they think.  In order to make it work, they turn from honest, law abiding activities to things like identity theft so they can get the identification to get to work.  That is a very real side effect of our illegal immigrant hunts.  You have to steal a SSN to survive, and that kills somebody's credit.
By turning these people who are, by and large, honest people who are stealing a proverbial loaf of bread into yellow ticket carrying criminals, we make an extraordinarily large segment of the population (at 12-30 million, that's 5-10% of people in this country) into proverbial Jean Valjeans as we play Javert.  Who watched Les Miserables (or read the book) and thought "I'd like to be more like Javert?"  Instead, we should not condone what they did, but rather, give them an opportunity to atone for it through being productive dues paying members of society.  While not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, HB 116 comes closer to that than anything else we have.
Second, it changes the focus of the debate.  Too often it is so emotionally charged that the rhetoric turns into "you hate Mexicans" and "no, you're an Anarchist." I think that the Church feels that is damaging for society as a whole, so let's try to move beyond that and focus on a compassionate way to treat everybody like people who are trying to do best instead of chattel to be used as pawns in a battle against the Federal Government.
  • Isn't giving these people who broke the law any form of amnesty condoning their behavior and thus subjecting us to more illegal immigration in the future?
It certainly would seem this way.  It's basic Broken Windows theory (i.e. if you leave a window on a building broken instead of fixing it, you invite people to break more, to vandalize, and otherwise despoil your property), which I am a big believer in.  If you offer amnesty, you open the door to an additional 12 million illegals who will want to take their chance on the next opportunity.  The difference between this and classic Broken Windows is that with our immigration system as it is, we're already offering incentives to break those windows.  People aren't coming over our borders hoping for amnesty, they're coming over because they don't want to wait in the world's longest line.  It's like when Apple releases a new product concurrently on the internet and in stores.  I could go wait in a line for hours, or I could order it online and have it shipped to my house.  Sure, I may not get it as quickly as when I wait in line, but at the same time, I can get on with life.  Of course, there are differences of scale.  Waiting in line for a green card is a Kafkaesque nightmare, while you risk your life crossing the border.  Both are bad choices, but expediency trumps waiting every time.  The bottom line, and I think the Church sees this, is that we will not be able to stop illegal immigration without the federal government's help.  When states take it upon themselves to enforce federal laws, it opens up a world of problems.  1. We don't have a fence around the state.  Indeed, we can't.  2. We don't have border guards watching for people coming across state lines.  It's the same issue.
I know that Rep. Chris Herrod has a statistic that since Arizona has implemented its enforcement law, they have had an outflow of 500,000.  While I'm sure the law had something to do with it, the drop in illegal immigrants nationwide shows that there's more to it than their law.  Indeed, in the US between 2007-2011, illegal immigrants went from 12 million down to 11 million.  Arizona accounts for a good portion of that, but so do other states.  The common thread here is the US economy.  If it picks up again, I would bank on an increase.  If it stays moribund, we're going to stay in a holding pattern.  Where there are jobs, people will go - especially if they are relatively good jobs, relative to their current one, that is.

  • What can we do to change things?  This is ridiculous!

I have to agree there.  It's ridiculous that people have to wait in a neverending line to get into the United States.  It's ridiculous that the border is as porous as it is.  It's ridiculous that the immigration debate gets heated so quickly and turns into nastiness.  It's ridiculous that nobody can fix it.

  • I might as well live in Mexico - look at all the Spanish around me!

This is a tough one.  There is a lot of Hispanic centered marketing around, and it can be hard to communicate.  It can also be hard to talk to my computer rep in Bangalore.  It's one of the downsides of our world economy, unfortunately.  There is a silver lining to this cloud though: it's happened before.  It happened with the Poles and Chicago.  With the Germans and Milwaukee.  The Chinese and San Francisco.  The Italians and Boston.  Everyone and New York.  When an immigrant wave comes, the first generation needs the support that is exemplified by all the signage and marketing in a foreign language.  However, the subsequent generations quickly become Americanized and soon speak just as well as anybody else.  They aspire to learn English, to fit in.  They move from their localized areas and meld with the rest of society.  What's better is that the second generation of Hispanic immigrants are doing this at a pace that leaves every other group in the dust.  They have become and are becoming Americanized far more rapidly than anybody else in our nation's history.

  • They're bankrupting the nation!

They're also paying into our nation.  I know an illegal who had a social so she could have a job.  Her employer found out, and she was let go.  However, all of the money she earned was taxed.  She didn't get anything from it, and never will.  That's money that goes into the system.  It's free money.  This happens with everyone who gets a fake SSN to be employed.  That's not saying they make it up, but I would think we're pretty close to a wash.

Here would be my simple (though probably not politically simple) plan:
1. Stop demonizing the other side.  Those against illegal immigration aren't bigots.  Those who favor keeping illegals here aren't buffoons who just don't get it.  Likewise, not every illegal is a criminal, just as not every speeder is a criminal.
2. Control the borders.  I'm not talking about a giant fence straight out of Berlin.  I'm talking about better patrolling, spot checks, and the use of satellites and other technology to make sure we're secure.  I don't care about the migrant worker coming across.  I am concerned about the drug cartels and terrorist organizations who can move across willy-nillily.
3. Liberalize immigration.  Quotas of people who can come from certain countries or for certain visas is an archaic notion that smacks of institutional racism.  It did in the 1900s and it does now.  Let people in if they pass a simple background check.  We don't want criminals, but we don't want to penalize entire nations with ridiculous restrictions.  We want the best and the brightest.  We want those who want a better life.  We want people who will contribute to society so that we won't sink under the greatest Ponzi scheme of all time - Social Security and Medicare.  Without immigrants, that's impossible.  Let's make it easier for them and for the rest of us at the same time.

1 comment:

Dana said...

There is one thing that has been over looked. The unemployment factor. Before the economy bit the dust, we had jobs to go around. At the same time the government, along with greedy businessmen brought in the illegal immigrant, promising them money. All they had to do was have an anchor child in America and it would cement them into the welfare system, until the child was 18. This way the Big Businessman could shove the welfare, (because of the low wages they pay)over to the middle class. #116 is a direct assault against the middle class. We can't afford to take a few nations population and take care of them while big business gets greedier. They are taking from the middle class and bringing in the third world to work. Sponsorship is the way immigration should be handled. If the church wants the illegal immigrants in Utah, then they need to sponsor all of them. It is unfair to force the middle class to take this tax burden on. That in a nutshell is called Socialism. What if I want my money to go to Africa? What then. My free will has been taken from me and I am paying a forced tax. What I need my child to work at the burger joint close to home to help with School Activities? Those jobs are gone. What about my husband who has been in the construction business his entire life and what left of building is being taken by the illegal immigrant and I need to work at the burger joint? You need to look at both sides. We have laws and there are reasons for those laws.