Monday, July 17, 2006

Francis Lynn on Immigration and Xenophobia

Francis Lynn posted a comment on my blog in response to my post entitled Xenophobia in Hazleton, Pennsylvania. Given the acrimonious nature of Francis' comment, he maintained a surprisingly civil tone. To wit, Francis criticized my position on immigration rather than criticizing me as a person. It is from this sort of starting point that I have been able to find common ground with almost everyone whom I engage in political discourse. Nonetheless, responding to the merits of Francis' criticism will be problematic in that his comment brought up a number of complicated issues that are all too often oversimplified.

Francis wrote:
"You like to throw that word around a lot, huh? - xenophobe. And mean-spirited ignorant ones at that. Ah, the disdain dripping forth from you."
Guilty as charged. I am a great believer in naming and shaming racists and xenophobes. Prejudice is deeply ingrained in human nature, and I am deeply prejudiced against xenophobes who rationalize their own prejudices, make excuses for it, and/or pretend it doesn't exist.

Francis continued:
"Your take on illegal immigration is, dare I say it, ignorant."
My take on illegal immigration may be extremely biased against the simplistic viewpoints espoused by most xenophobes, but it is most certainly not ignorant. By any measure you might use, I am a very well-educated and well-informed individual, and I am well-equipped to play the Devil's Advocate on any issue, so much so that most people have a very hard time figuring out where I stand on most issues unless I make a point of coming right out and telling them.

Francis continued:
"Does or does not a country have a right to control its borders & entry across it?"
This question betrays a very simplistic viewpoint, ignorant of the fact that national sovereignty is a relatively recent phenomenon in human history. I might as well ask you whether one country has the right to declare war on another country or to intervene in a conflict between two sovereign nations.

Having researched my own diverse genealogy, these issues have special significance to me. To wit, the people with my last name who emigrated to the United States in the early to middle 1800s identified themselves in their immigration papers as "Alsatian." It's very rare that I meet anyone who knows where Alsace is, or rather where it was. Alsace is currently part of France, and it once included large portions of what is now the Franche-Comté region of France. My most recent Alsation ancestors came from a small town known as Beaucourt in what is now the Territoire de Belfort, an area at the confluence of what is now the countries of France, Germany, and Switzerland. The present day boundaries of these countries and regions were not determined until after World War I.

Getting back to the issue of whether a country has a right to control its borders and entry across it, I'd say that such issues are open to debate. However, based on my extensive knowledge of history, politics, and economics, I would say that the relatively recent concept of national sovereignty is becoming less and less workable in today's fast-paced and global economy, and that otherwise law-abiding people who want to come to the United States to work, live, and become naturalized citizens should be allowed to do so. On the other extreme, if a foreign national is a violent criminal, he or she should be denied entry to the United States and/or deported to his or her country of origin as soon as it is practicable for the powers that be to do so.

Francis continued:
"Judging by every other country in the world, it sure does have a right. You are in the small minority who thinks otherwise, my friend."
I am most certainly in a very small minority of right-thinking people. Thank you for noticing. I might add that when my views become too mainstream, I take that as a sign that I need to re-examine my views and change them.

Francis continued:
"The right to control ones border implies that there are laws & penalties that go with that control."
Why not just put me in charge? I think I'm a pretty good judge of who should stay and who should go.

Francis continued:
"In that context, where do you get the idea that such laws are unfair?"
From the same place that I get the idea that Jim Crow laws were unfair. The concept of the rule of law is based upon a presumption that there is such a thing as natural law, and any man-made laws that violate natural law are (by definition) unfair.

Francis continued:
"What is unfair are the illegal border crossers who in effect jump the line ahead of those who applied for legal immigration, some who have waited years. Nary a word from you about this unfairness?"
Before illegal immigration becomes an issue for me, the irresistible market forces that drive illegal immigration need to be acknowledged and addressed. To that end, if legal immigration in the United States is expanded to the point where all of the law-abiding people who want to come to this country to live and work are allowed to do so, I am all in favor of telling people who broke the previous unfair law to go back to the end of the line if they want to become citizens.

Francis continued:
"Contrary to your assertion that we are all xenophobes, there are real reasons for concern in some towns & cities. Towns have seen sudden increases in population. Part of this is due to illegals. Social services provided by towns are strained, schools are getting crowded, increases in crime."
Sudden population growth is a serious problem that needs to be addressed with smart growth policies, and in this sense opposition to legal/illegal immigration is not unlike the misguided and xenophobic no growth policies that many state and local governments have implemented. The key difference is that most no growth policies do not target minority groups.

Francis continued:
"Across the country, billions are spent for educating illegal children, hospitals are stuck footing billions in bills due to illegals. Billions are spent on social services to illegals."
Everything I've read indicates that immigrants are the most productive sector of the economy. Indeed, most of the self-made millionaires in the United States are first- or second-generation Americans, whereas most people who live on the dole in the United States have been doing so for three-generations or more.

Francis continued:
"Did you know there is a Korean travel agency that flies in late term pregnant women, just so they can give birth here & claim US citizenship?"
I hear this sort of racist, anti-immigrant propaganda all the time. You want to know what's even worse? There's people who have been living on the dole in the United States for three generations or more!

Francis continued:
"I have some first hand knowledge of the culture of illegals. Landlords love renting out attics & basements to them. Free money for them - off the books income. I've seem squalled conditions in which illegals sleep next to boilers or in tiny attic crawl-spaces, or mattress-lined rooms where 10-15 sleep on the floor. Are you saying a town has no right to control its housing codes or its fire & safety codes?"
Just imagine how much easier it would be to enforce local codes if people living in slums could complain to the powers that be without fear of being run out of town on a rail.

Francis continued:
"Your assertion that the Hazleton ordinance is being used to persecute Latino legal citizens is completely without foundation. Show me."
Pick up a newspaper, my friend.

Francis continued:
"The USA is the most genrous receiver of immigrants in the world. But that's not good enough for you. Open borders - take in the world. But no country can sustain that type of influx. If you can't see that then it's pointless having a rational starting point with you about illegal immigration."
What I see is that illegal immigration is driven by irresistible market forces, much like the recreational drug trade. And as long as there is demand for cheap labor or recreational drugs, supplies will continue to stream across the border.


Anonymous Jim said...

"Before illegal immigration becomes an issue for me, the irresistible market forces that drive illegal immigration need to be acknowledged and addressed."

Hazleton saw that illegals were there because there was a desire for their labor, and that's why businesses who hire them will lose their licenses. I've lived in Hazleton, and I've seen how it's deteriorated over the years. The economy has been getting worse since the 1970s and there is no way they could provide enough jobs for their citizens, let alone illegals. Hazleton is a very small town and there's just not enough resources to support people who give nothing back to the city.

5:15 PM, July 17, 2006  
Blogger Francis Lynn said...

Francis Redeux

Thanks for the star billing. A few follow-up comments: Just because you deem someone a xenophobe or racist because he or she disagrees with you does not make them so, except in your mind. Amazingly, some people have valid concerns about their community & their tax dollars. But you paint everyone with the same old saw of xenophobia & racism. It's an old ploy by those who seek to invalidate an opposing view & aims to play on the emotions rather than the issues.

You may not intend to, but you come across as arrogant & superior. An opposing view to you, besides being xenophobic & racist, is additionally simplistic. But you know the issues better because, "By any measure you might use, I am a very well-educated and well-informed individual..." Very well-educated & well-informed people are a dime a dozen. And they range from genius to idiot. Believe it or not, there are well-educated & well-informed people on the other side of the issue. Oh wait, they can't be...they are xenophobes, racists & simplistic fools.

I could call you a whacked-out Lib nut, but it does not add to the debate. Throwing out buzzwords like xenophobe & racist is intellectually dishonest. You should be above that.

It is astonishing that you consider that defined, soveriegn borders & the right to control those borders as "open to debate". They are there. Deal with it. But what do I know...according to you I have a "very simplistic viewpoint, ignorant of the fact that national sovereignty is a relatively recent phenomenon...", whereas you have "extensive knowledge of history, politics, and economics."

It's interesting that you think law-abiding people who want to live & work in the US should be able to, with the cavat that violent criminals should be denied entry or deported. Let's see...with at least 12 million illegals in the country & no idea how many among them are violent criminals, do you think maybe it is okay if our government controls the borders to stop the violent ones from gettng in? Or is that intrusive on the rights of people to freely cross? You can't have it both ways - denying entry to violent criminals means controlling the border & identifying those who want to come in.

I'm not even touching your "rule of law" answer. Again, you bring up racism, equating immigration law to Jim Crow & man-made law as unfair if it is contrary to "natural law". It's just waaay out there.

Again, the USA cannot take in 3 billion law-abiding people, just because they want to come here. The social structure(oops - is that racist or xenophobic?) & economy need to assimulate those coming in at a certain pace so that those structures are not overwhelmed. And to do that means...control of immigration & control of the border, even though that is contrary to natural law, as you say.

Illegal immigrants are not the most productive sector in this country, in so far as what they contribute to the economy as opposed to what govermentt services are spent on them. Most illegals are bottom rung workers with little or no tax contribution. Billions of dollars of what is termed Remittances are send by them to Mexico & other countries, rather than being spent here. Did you know Remittances account for more than Mexico's top revenue producer - oil? Legal immigrants are a different story.

Your answer about illegals living in illegal apartments is disingenuous. They ones I cited are not in slums - they are living in nice suburbs. They want the cheap rent of a room or attic & landlords want the under the table income. Without municipal code enforcement, they may indeed become slums.

Okay, I picked up a newspaper - I see nothing about Hazelton using the new ordinance to persecute Latino legal citizens, unless you're reading Mother Jones or LaRaza newsletter. Citation, please.

Finally, illegal immigration will slow dramatically with greater border control, coupled with a serious crackdown on businesses that exploit the illegal labor, deny able-bodied Americans those jobs & drive down lower bracket wages on a whole.

You've really not addressed the issues I brought up, other than being disingenuous, flippant, vague & unrealistic - not to mention the disdainful language toward mere earthlings. But thank you for your time & patience.

5:53 PM, July 17, 2006  

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