“Illegals” hysteria & the place I can’t go

I had doctor’s appointments most of the day, and while I was in the car I kept switching around on the radio. I pulled up Rush and couldn’t listen more than a few minutes. What I heard was a disappointing, strange, paranoia-feeding rant on how the “moderate Republicans and Democrats in the Senate” have a deliberate plan afoot to “enlarge the number of victims and people who will need welfare services” so as to “enlarge government…”

It’s all a plot and a conspiracy, you see…nothing could possibly simply be about stupid and lackluster career politicians trying to finally, finally, finally do something about an issue no one has wanted to touch for 30 years and doing it haphazardly, fearfully and imperfectly, and with the usual suspects trying to add their own flourishes, which must always be batted down, whether the issue is illegal immigration or almost anything else.

No, no. It’s a plot! It’s a conspiracy, meant to bring down America and put the conservatives in their place! To create a permanent underclass! To enlarge government, create more victims and raise our taxes! (what nonsense…we’re in a freaking war and spending more than ever, yet our revenues are growing thanks to the tax cuts…it’s funny how, when it suits a need, suddenly taxes will have to be raised…)

Maybe I should launch a conspiracy theory of my own…say…oh, something silly, like maybe this hysteria is just the conservatives doing everything they can to foment enough discord and discontent to create the “demand” for a third party candidate.

Which worked out so well for all of us in 1992. Hey, one conspiracy theory is as good as the next, isn’t it?

Now, I grant you, some of what is in this Senate immigration bill is objectionable and must be striken – it makes no sense at all for illegals to have better job-protection and benefits than American citizens. Social Security entitlements? I don’t think so. The idea of giving Mexico veto power over a fence or barrier idea is ludicrous.

But…for heaven’s sake, the thing is going to go to Congress, it’s going to get cleaned up and turned around – what has come out of the senate will not be the thing that (assuming anything actually gets passed) will be passed. There is some evidence that something workable may actually emerge from all of this ‘initial’ hoo-ha.

I know there are different opinions on the issue of these illegals, and everyone, on every side, “has a point” but I was extremely disheartened by what I heard on the radio, and by some of what I am seeing in blogs and in my email. I had to turn Rush off – there was something so insideous about the “ship them all back,” rhetoric flying between him and his callers that it was making my flesh feel crawly. “Round them up and ship them back, devote a whole law-enforcement team to it, we can get rid of all of them in 7 years, Rush!” Stunning. Appalling. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.

Aside from the legal and moral ramifications of trying to “round them all up -” I got out of the car thinking, are they forgetting that we are talking about human beings, here? Many of whom have been here for years, initially through legal means, and who have created lives? People with lives and families who – like how they got here or not – are HERE and are mostly contributing to society in positive ways? Honestly, the folks on the radio sounded extremely narrow and over-the-top. The humanity of the illegals seemed as unmentionable to them as the humanity of a baby-in-utero is to a feminist.

And funnily enough, I didn’t hear anyone complaining about the annual influx of illegal Irish immigrants who come in via Montauk and stay. But they’re charmers, aren’t they? Good senses of humor, they work and they don’t ever cause trouble…right?

Build a wall, by all means. Make sure you build it deep, so tunneling is difficult. Arm it and stand guards. I’m all for it. But this overheated rhetoric, this astonishing willingness by too many to keep blowing on the flames until something erupts…this is not good.

I cannot buy into this idea that suddenly America will be overthrown unless 11-12 million illegals are “shipped out, no matter what the story is…” I also cannot buy into the idea that there is a conspiracy afoot to create a socialist state, anymore than I buy the idea that this brouhaha is a conspiracy on the right to form a third party. But what do I know? Maybe everything is a grand conspiracy, after all. In which case, everyone is working at cross-purposes and all of this sound and fury may signify nothing…

I still believe angels ride in whirlwinds.

I also believe that Hispanics are the upcoming huge voter bloc in this nation, and that most of them (not the A.N.S.W.E.R. rowdies or the useful idiots who exist in EVERY ethnic group) are fairly conservative types of folks, and the conservatives are doing all they can to convince the Hispanics that they will never be welcome in the GOP. I have emails from Hispanics who have worked on GOP campaigns and contributed to GOP causes and who are dazed and feeling very much like they are not welcome. One fellow – Mexican/German – of immigrant parents, has gone from supporting the initial idea that immigrants should be encouraged to come here legally to deciding that the conservative tone has crossed a line where he cannot follow.

I am concerned about people running so hot on this issue – with the heat being enhanced by the bellows blowing on it via talk radio and some blogs – I am concerned that someone is going to get hurt. I’m concerned that people are losing their heads over this.

“Oh, Anchoress, the whole nation is going to be hurt if we don’t ship them all back and seal the borders and blah, blah, blah…”

Are we? I have a plumber friend who owns his own business, and he can’t find young white or black men to come learn the trade under him. “The black kids all want to be rappers and athletes, and the white kids think the sweat is beneath them. The Asian kids are all going to college to become doctors.” But the Hispanic kids want to learn. They want to work and support themselves, they want to learn the language so they can enter the marketplace. I hear a lot of sneering about the “jobs Americans don’t want to do” line…but the truth is, while the line may be just a line…it has some (limited) basis in fact.

70 or 80 years ago, my own ancestors were coming in, legally, and learned to hang drywall and fix automobiles and fight fires. Yes, they were legal…the nation had well-run, functional programs to handle a huge influx. Had such a program not been in place, they would have come, anyway…and they would have been illegal!

I wonder why it is that we do not, today have a well-run, functional immigration program to handle the huge influx of people who wish to live here. Why aren’t we WORKING on creating such a program? Why isn’t that part of any immigration bill – the reform of the INS?

We’re going to need our immigrants as the boomers retire and weigh heavy on our SocSec system and their children barely reproduce at replacement levels. Why can’t we bring back the idea of Ellis Island – create an Ellis Island West (or “Islands”) of strategically-placed processing centers, so to speak — which would prevent the “illegality” of our immigrants?

That might be helpful, you know? Make ‘em legal, get ‘em paying taxes…Sure, some people called my grandfather a “filthy wop” and my other grandfather a “lazy mick” and they bitched because the carousel at Coney Island suddenly played Italian hurdy-gurdy instead of genteel songs from the gay 90′s, but everyone adjusted. The nation grew stronger.

Alexandra has a good post up on the issue, and she ends by linking to this very interesting partial transcript of an interview between Rush and Tony Snow. Radio Equalizer also has a partial and some thoughts. California Conservative said conservatives should be proud of the debate and he’s probably right about that.

Once I finally got a chance to listen to the exchange between Limbaugh and Snow, (thanks to a pal) my sense was that Rush was not convincing in his arguments and he knew it. He sounded tentative and uneasy the whole time, and I came away thinking Snow got the better him and had been entirely too convincing for Rush’s liking. And I am not a Rush-hater by any means. I’ve often admired his skill and enjoyed his humor…but lately…but, I could give him the benefit of a doubt, too, and suggest that perhaps Rush, who has always struck me as mannerly, was simply being deferential to Snow.


I wrote a few days ago something that I think Tony Snow (with his “speeding ticket” remark) was trying to say today, although his analogy was not a good one:

The right has a disproportionate number of Christians in its tent, and Christians are supposed to know a thing or two about forgiveness and second-chances. By the light of Christ, a whore is not forever a whore and a thief is not forever a thief. Are we conservative Christians going to forget our own second chances – some of them known only to God and ourselves – and declare that while we might not always be wretches,
“an illegal is always an illegal and there is no mercy, no chance to be something more…”

I can’t believe that. Can’t accept it. Won’t be part of it. Our Lord demands more from us than a shrill dehumanization of what He has created, some demagoguery and a quick look-away as we shout, “ship ‘em back! Bad! All Bad!”

There are no negatives in Christ.

I also put forth my own admittedly simplistic and probably unrealistic idea:

Maybe the answer is something I’ve been thinking about for a little while – a sort of registry in which a “guest-worker” who has been here for a while and has demonstrated his peaceable intentions would register and pay a recurring fee (not a tax, which would give rise to demands for representation and votes, but a fee – a usable source of revenue for the local government) and in exchange have the “right” to work without being harassed or having to look over his shoulder all the time. Perhaps these registration centers would offer classes in English for nominal fees, to help them in their assimilation. Such a registry might even be able to eventually offer affordable group health insurance to take some of the burden off of the hospitals (and the rest of us). Okay, maybe it’s a stupid or naive idea. I never said I was brill. That’s why I’m not a community leader. But someone, somewhere has an idea that will work.

I seem to be losing friends over this issue which is not my choice – but there you go. I cannot get on the train with the people who are spitting mad and convinced that the nation is utterly doomed, and will die quickly unless their EXACT RECIPE is followed. There is just something really wrong with that – with the whole mindset. And there is an undercurrent of something – not among the friends I am losing so much as in the blogs and on the radio – I can’t put my finger on, but I don’t like it. I can’t embrace it.

If your convictions demand that you no longer read me, that you de-link me, that you consider me unfit to be a friend, a conservative, a woman, a Christian, or whatever…well…I’m sorry to hear that, but so be it. I agree with some of what you say, I support some of the measures you propose…but I cannot go where you want me to go, and I cannot fume and boil and roil and churn as you clearly wish I would. And I cannot embrace the hate – yes, real hate – that I am seeing roll off some of you like fog off the sea. Nothing good ever comes from embracing the hate.

Here I stand, I can do no other.

UPDATE: Some commenters directed me to this piece by Big Lizard on some polling data done by Matt Dowd. I never give much credence to polls outside of elections, but this is a little heartening, I admit! :-)

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • http://photoncourier.blogspot.com david foster

    “why it is that we do not, today have a well-run, functional immigration program”…it’s a good question. I’d point out, though, that we *do* have a well-funded program for inhibiting assimilation and integration of immigrants, in the form of the grievance industry.

  • newton

    I say that one of the “root cause” of this problem has not been addressed enough.
    Most illegal immigration is coming from south of the border. What’s going on south? Simple: many and many people want to make their own lives in Mexico, mainly. But the way things are run over there make entepreneurship the pits. You have to bribe a lot of people in positions in order to get the permits and concessions you want. That hasn’t changed since 1910, nor since the day Vicente Fox became president of the country. Six years it has been, and la mordida – government corruption and bribery – is still biting anyone’s chances to succeed on their own. Plus, there’s so little incoming capital that could encourage business-making.
    The result? Dissatisfied people who see no other solution than to leave families behind and make a trip across the border to do what they cannot do at home. And to hell with the laws – they don’t matter over there, so why should they matter here?
    I’m tempted to make a bumper sticker on this. I’d like to write it as “SOLVE ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION: FIX MEXICO FIRST!” That should make plenty of people pay attention… and I’m sure lots of Mexican-Americans will agree.

  • http://ibasho.blogspot.com Papa

    Thank you, Anchoress, for staking out the middle ground between “round ‘em up, ship ‘em back, wall ‘em out” and “California was really theirs all along, let ‘em have it” that I have always know was there but have had difficulty articulating.

  • http://yargb.blogspot Terrye


    I feel the same way. In fact I think a lot of Republicans are reinforcing every negative stereotype out there about conservatives. It took years for the Republicans to become a majority party and it seems the radical right is going to do what it always does: run enough people off to make the Democrats seem viable.

    The right insisted that we deal with this issue now, right now… and so they have an obligation to come up with a plan that can work for the majority of the American people..not just Rush’s fan clue. If they can not do that they will prove they can not govern.

  • http://calledasseen.blogspot.com HaroldHutchison

    Very well stated.

  • stephanie

    I’m sorry you’re losing friends over this, Anchoress. I stand with you. Some nativist sentiment is good- but this over the top nativist sentiment has been present since the 20′s (when we initiated the quota immigration system) it ebbs and flows, but prevents anything useful and positive from being done about immigration. It’s sick and wrong- always has been.

  • smmtheory

    My sentiments on the subject are in line with yours Anchoress. The immigration policies of this country need to be fixed to handle a large influx of immigrants and make them legal. It’s when they have to stay in the shadows that makes it hard to assimilate them. If they were not illegal, then they would be paying into the system and relieve the tax burden that some people are screaming about. It makes no sense why this country started being so restrictive on who was allowed to immigrate. The policy currently in place moots the meaning of the plaque on Ellis Island. We need to quit turning our noses up and start welcoming the wretched refuse of other countries again. That is what made America great.

  • http://yargb.blogspot Terrye


    Big Lizards has a post up linking to a poll done by Matthew Dowd:

    GOP poller extraordinaire, writes that the ultra-hardline conservatives who insist that the American people demand “enforcement only” and hate the “amnesty” of the Senate bill have it exactly backwards. In fact:

    Dowd’s memo says that an internal RNC poll conducted by Jan Van Louhuzen finds that “overwhelming support exists for a temporary worker program. 80% of all voters, 83% of Republicans, and 79% of self-identified conservatives support a temporary worker program as long as immigrants pay taxes and obey the law.”

    More, from the RNC internal poll: “When voters are given the choice of other immigration proposals, strengthening enforcement with a tamper-proof identity card (89% among all voters, 93% among GOP), various wordings of a temporary worker program (the highest at 85% among all voters, 86% among GOP), and sending National Guard troops to the border (63% among all voters, 84% among GOP) score the highest among both all voters and Republican voters.”

    Also: “Voters don’t consider granting legal status to those already here amnesty.”

    Maybe you are not as alone you thought.

  • buckey1

    Yeah, El Rushbo has been hard to listen to these last few weeks. The even sadder thing is the complete denial that the “ship them out” sentiment is not nativistic sentiment. If these people don’t want to be called nativists, then they should stop sounding like a nativist.

    I do believe that an element of the conservative base has expressed what they think of “compassionate conservatism” in this matter. They seem to want “compassionless conservatism” as the alternative.

  • http://hammeringsparksfromtheanvil.blogspot.com/ Wordsmith

    I had to turn Rush off

    You know, I’ve never listened to Rush. I have heard snippets, but never heard him on the radio.

    Someone I do listen to is Laura Ingraham. And lately, I’ve found her hard to listen to. It was the same over Harriet Miers and over the Dubai ports deal. It is just so clearly agenda-driven, and intolerant of any dissenting conservative views on this. I guess this is how the Left must feel when they tune into her program.

    I seem to be losing friends over this issue

    You’ve been gaining some too…or haven’t you noticed? (^_^)

  • http://hammeringsparksfromtheanvil.blogspot.com/ Wordsmith

    Forgot to add, that I agree with you on the potential voting bloc, in Hispanics. Many are Catholic, and share the values of the religious conservatives.

  • http://yargb.blogspot Terrye

    It is like the Salem Witch Trials or something, a kind of hysteria. Fear and anger for the sake of fear and anger. I am beginning to wonder what the next hissey fit will be about.

  • http://ohhowilovejesus.com Jeanette