I haven't written much about immigration because, frankly, I don't have a clear grasp of the subject. Immigration law and the economics involved are fairly complicated. So are the ethics.
The idea of rebranding illegal immigrants as felons strikes me as unnecessary and dumb, but I'd be happy to hear the arguments in favor of such a measure.
It's not easy to find such arguments however. Instead of arguments, one finds mainly sentiment — and that sentiment is not pretty.
In my inbox today, Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council (which was founded as the political wing of James Dobson's Focus on the Family) weighed in on the mayoral election in Herndon, Va. That's kind of a strange topic for a national policy agency to be addressing, but apparently Herndon has become a flashpoint for the non-debate debate over immigration.
The issue, I kid you not, involved the parking lot of the local 7-Eleven.
The parking lot had become a gathering place for local day laborers — mostly Hispanic immigrants. They would assemble there in the mornings and local landscapers or other contract labor bosses would come by to hire crews for the day. Some of these day laborers may have been illegal immigrants. Or not, we don't really have any way of knowing. But in any case their gathering in the 7-Eleven parking lot was an inconvenience for the convenience store's customers.
This is perhaps the first recorded incidence of people hanging out in a 7-Eleven parking lot because they want to work. The usual nuisance crowd in a 7-Eleven parking lot, after all, tends to look more like Jay and Silent Bob — crowds of local youth, native born and bred, hanging out at the 7-Eleven or the Gas N' Sip as a way of avoiding work ("By choice man!"). Such convenience-store parking lot habitues tend to have a fully legal citizenship, but that may be the only legal thing about them. The only reason they're not charged with loitering with intent is that intent would require more energy and coherent thought than they seem capable of mustering.
The assembled crowds at the Herndon 7-Eleven, on the other hand, were industrious, eager to work, peaceful and less likely to be stoned. But they were still in the way of the regular customers stopping by for their bad coffee, lottery tickets and overpriced cigarettes.
So the town decided to open a day laborer center — a place where those seeking work could gather to meet prospective bosses and where they could also find help with things like ESL classes.
This idea, evidently, strikes many native-born nativists as nefarious and horrifying. After all, if these people are so desperate to find work and to learn English it must mean that right now, they're unemployed and can't speak English. Why should taxpayer money be used to help such deadbeat foreigners?
Tony Perkins believes that such a day-laborer center is — get this — un-Christian. Perkins assumes that all immigrant day laborers — and possibly all people with Hispanic surnames — are illegal until proven innocent. And he is downright gleeful to see that the mayor and members of town council who supported the center were voted out by an anti-immigrant backlash:
Soon-to-be ex-Mayor [Michael L.] O'Reilly simply doesn't get it. But you can be sure that the name Herndon will be heard on the Hill. We need to secure the borders — now. We should not be debating what to do with illegals until we have secured the borders. Let's stop the ship from taking on water. Shore it up fast, and then we can debate what to do with stowaways.
Perkins is not the only one celebrating the results of the Herndon election. So were members of the anti-immigrant Minutemen in Virginia. (I didn't know there were so-called Minutemen in Virginia. What do they do — patrol the border with North Carolina?) This Redstate post is violently giddy with delight:
Last night the first election shot in the war against the illegal invasion was fired in Herndon, Va. The mayor and two pro-illegal immigrant councilmen were defeated at the polls, leaving a new slate in power that want to stop the invasion and the day labor center. …
It is time to build the wall on the border that the Minutemen want and to put the National Guard on the border. The Minutemen are now building a wall themselves on private land since the federal government will not do it. …
Herndon, Virginia just slapped [politicians] across the face.
In Matworld we ESCALATE the war against the illegals, not do what THEY think we should. …
We in Virginia have fired the first shot, it is up to the rest of the country to join the battle to stop the illegal alien invasion.
In addition to the deportation of all illegal immigrants and the construction of a "wall" along the Rio Grande, our Minuteman friend also demands that all U.S. citizens be required to have a passport and that this be the only valid, legal form of identification.
Before I sign on with this agenda, I would want to know a few more details. Like will the wall be equipped with catapults and cauldrons of boiling oil? Catapults would be cool. And when government officials demand to see my papers, will they do it in a cool East German accent? Or maybe Afrikaans?
A government passport checkpoint outside the 7-Eleven is, of course, far less intimidating than the prospect of having to walk by several prospective landscapers.
Passport checkpoints might slow down my commute, though, so here's a more efficient idea. This should also help our Minuteman friend sell his agenda with Tony Perkins' evangelical constituency: Instead of passports, we could use high-tech scanners to read a "citizen-chip" embedded in … oh, I don't know … the foreheads of all legal citizens. Anybody without "the mark" would be deported, catapulted back over the wall.
"Matworld" is clearly a deliriously silly place — as far removed from reality as Tony Perkins is from orthodox Christian ethics. So all of this would be funny except that, as David Neiwert of Orcinus again reminds us, it's not. Stupid people filled with hate often do a lot of damage. Neiwert highlights, for example, an ADL report titled "Extremists Declare 'Open Season' on Immigrants; Hispanics Target of Incitement and Violence."
That's not funny at all.
More from Orcinus (all links from the original):
And, as the San Francisco Chronicle recently reported, there has been a regular onslaught of racist, clearly white supremacist ugliness floating around the anti-immigration forces recently, almost certainly whipped up by the pro-immigrant marches. This includes death threats against public officials.
There's no reason to be surprised by this, though. Anyone watching the anti-immigration agitation carefully — particularly the semi-official celebration of violent viglantism known as the Minutemen — can hear for themselves the old embers of racial hate crackling back to life.
So while Minuteman founder Chris Simcox works steadily to deny the presence of any kind of white-supremacist element in his ranks, you can hear one of his early fellow border patrollers expounding:
No, we ought to be able to shoot the Mexicans on sight, and that would end the problem. After two or three Mexicans are shot, they'll stop crossing the border and they'll take their cows home, too.
Ugly. And growing.
(Correx: Above now says "Rio Grande" where it's supposed to. Thanks, Brian.)