What is the exception? What is the one kind of crime so serious that its perpetrators are labeled as the crime itself? The answer of course, is the breaking of rules related to migration. Sneak across the border, and you are an illegal. Cross with a visa but violate its terms, and you are an illegal.
Not a trespasser or a paperwork-not-filler-outer, but an illegal (n.). The same does not apply, incidentally, to those who hire undocumented workers -- only to those who are undocumented.
If the economy is growing and unemployment is low, this is not such a big issue. But if an economy is shrinking, or if it is growing slowly, or if it is growing quickly but not providing jobs -- then perpetrators of these crimes are castigated as the illegals and become the target of ire, vitriol, and of course demagoguery.
Even so, during the 2016 presidential campaign, the far right invoked the specter of undocumented migrants who have committed other crimes -- such as murder -- as the focus of eventual stepped-up enforcement. But as Slate journalist Jamelle Bouie writes in ICE Unbound, the distinction between criminality in the narrow sense of being undocumented and criminality in the more common-sense sense of committing crimes against people or property is now guiding federal enforcement actions.
Even people who have documents and are required to check in with immigration agencies are now being arrested and deported, rending families apart. Perhaps this is why we do not hear the phrase "family values conservative" so much these days -- the hypocrisy would be too obvious, even on Fox.
Bouie mentions a sharp shift away from "border removals" -- which strict enforcement under President Obama had already sent into decline -- and toward "internal removals." He hints at one of the reasons for the shift, aside from ideology: many of the removals involve private prisons. With an Attorney General deeply invested in the prison industry and growing number of politicians using it as a source of donations, raids throughout the interior of the country are needed to keep the funds flowing to this sector.
What is often really at work in discussions of immigration is confusion between the notions of patriotism and nationalism. The positive kind of patriotism is something I remember witnessing in the days and weeks -- but not so much the months and years -- following the attacks of September 11, 2001. For a short while, people even in New England started driving more courteously. They treated neighbors more kindly, donated more to charities, and volunteered more in their communities. They even appreciated the outpouring of sympathy from people throughout the world that lasted from the time of the attack until the re-invasion of Iraq.
But in tough times the good energy of patriotism can easily cross over to the bad energy of nationalism, and the bankster-led economic meltdown of 2008 seems to have ushered in just that kind of bad energy. Searching for scapegoats, too many victims of financiers have turned their attention to "others" in their midst and seeking isolation from the "others" outside.
|Source: Found online; I'm seeking the name of the cartoonist|
As I mentioned several years ago on this blog, my old neighbors in Tucson have long recognized that migrants frequently die in the desert. While this seems to please some of my fellow citizens, others find the compassion to maintain life-saving water stations near the border. Attention has returned to these efforts as news emerged that some border agents have sabotaged water stations. In a recent interview, the Tucson section chief argued that this is against the protocols of the agency itself, and that many agents are actually trained in emergency medicine.
NPR journalist Claudio Sanchez recently reported that among hundreds of thousands of residents currently waiting for relief under DACA are almost 9,000 teachers. The deportations that were discussed during the 2016 presidential campaigns were to be of "bad hombres" who were threats to public safety. Caught in the dragnet, though, are military veterans, teachers, and others who live in and serve the only country they call home: the U.S. of A.
As the White House expands its anti-immigrant program from the "bad hombres" to all undocumented migrants to migrants from places he does not like, the consequences are beginning to emerge in the broader economy. As reported by Forbes journalist Chris Morris, California Crops Rot as Immigration Crackdown Creates Farmworker Shortage.
Writing for Common Dreams, Juan Escalante goes a step further. Citing the influence of white nationalists in the current administration, he plausibly argues that the DACA compromise now under discussion amount to a "racist ransom note" because it ties the fate of DACA applicants to a wish list of policies that would have the effect of whitening the population.
Roger Rocha, president of League of United Latin American Citizens, the oldest Latino civil rights organization, did support the administration's position in recent days, as he explains in an interview with NPR journalist Ari Shapiro. He withdrew his letter to the president, however, after significant backlash from members of his organization. In explaining his reasons for supporting the administration, it is clear that the administration positions have been shifting frequently. More troubling is that even in explaining points of agreement, he describes the Dreamer population as hostages to the legislative process.
Consent of the Governed
Extreme measures to limit the rights of migrants are part of a set of strategies by which politicians endeavor to select their constituents, rather than allowing the reverse to happen. Long-term resident of the country are -- clearly -- among the governed, and they are among those who pay taxes. Measures that unduly deny them citizenship and personhood run counter to the ideals of the original (and illegal at the time) American Revolution. We had a bit of set-to with King George, after all, about taxation without representation, and enshrined "consent of the governed" in our Declaration of Independence.