Rejecting a Typical Anti-Immigrationist Stance on Moral and Philosophical Grounds, Part 1
The things said by one Hubber, Hxprof, in a comment (the only comment as I'm writing this) to my first Hub, Anti-Immigration is Anti-American, Hypocritical and Immoral, are so commonly heard from anti-immigrationists and seem to me to be so representative of the general thrust of anti-immigration (or anti-immigrant) arguments that I've decided to use the Hubber's comments as a sort of template for responding to a typical anti-immigrationist stance. (Due to the inordinate length of what I had to say, I thought it prudent to split the whole of my response into two parts, or two Hubs.)
In his second paragraph, Hxprof talks about how in the 1800s and early 1900s immigrants were registered and checked for disease through Ellis Island-- which I've noticed is a sort of code word for ant-immigrationists. They love to talk about how so many immigrants were allowed in through Ellis Island, as though that somehow shows our country is so gracious towards immigrants today; this is a non sequitur, making no sense at all.
Or something close to the following is often heard from proponents of anti-immigration measures and a closed border policy: "Why don't they just come here legally like my ancestors did through Ellis Island?" I'm sorry, but this sort of remark belies a certain willful ignorance on the part of the speaker. Is it not entirely possible that the protocols and procedures for becoming "legal" today are altogether different and much more difficult than it was a hundred years ago or so? Of course they are. It seems silly to even have to point it out. I wonder if so many really believe that immigrants in general would rather be and remain "illegal"-- enduring all the discrimination, stress and anxiety that goes along with such a status --than earnestly work towards becoming "legal," or documented. It seems obvious to me that for many people wishing to make a better life for themselves and their families here in the "land of opportunity" that it is not at all easy, practical, realistic, or even possible sometimes, for them to simply do what it takes to become "legal". If it were, there would not even be a debate. It's common sense (or at least should be).
The Hubber goes on to say: "Therefore where possible our government DID set up a system whereby people could come to America, and it was the responsibility of our government to do so. Since those days we gradually placed restrictions on immigration-again, our government's responsibility and constitutionally dictated power."
The part I've italicized is the key part that I simply can not agree or go along with, because it tries to justify the hard-hearted, hypocritical and foolish immigration policy of ours-- that has become increasingly strict, stringent, militant and aggressive over time --by saying it is "our government's responsibility and constitutionally dictated power" to create and sustain such a policy. And that is just wrong-headed. Does our government have the authority to place restrictions on immigration? Sure it does, and I never said it didn't. I believe there are probably circumstances and situations in which certain restrictions would make sense. But that is different from asking, Should we and our government restrict immigration the ways in which we have or as much as we have? Needless to say, I (and multitudes of others) think the answer is a resounding NO. It is neither our government's responsibility nor its constitutionally dictated power to so severely limit and restrict who and how many can come here, and hamper, harass and threaten those who muster the werewithal and will to make the often dangerous, life-threatening trip to our borders and beyond. In fact, it is our government's moral responsibility to NOT so severely limit and restrict who and how many can come here. I don't think I can elucidate this position of mine any more clearly than I already have (with my first Hub).
Now I'm not saying there aren't a lot of legal, or documented, "immigrants" (I put it in quotes to stress what I point out in my first Hub-- that, really, none of us, except for Native Americans, have the initial, unquestioned right to be here since we are all descendants of invaders and visitors, or "immigrants," to what has become U.S. soil.) already here-- because there are tens of millions, and about a million more arrive each year. But the point is, if we really want to see ourselves as a decent and unhypocritical society with high moral character, then our immigration policies should be much less closed and stubbornly prohibitive, and far more open and accepting.
Responding to what I say in my Hub about feeling we should honor what it says on the Statue of Liberty, Hxprof remarks, "We can and should take some of the, 'huddled masses'; however, we can and MUST be the ones who decide how many we take in and who we take in," I would basically agree. It must be us, together as a society and body politic, who take a step back and see the truly inhumane, immoral, fear-based and, frankly, un-Judeo-Christian-Islamic-like nature of our current policies and attitudes towards immigrants and immigration-- policies and attitudes which are totally hypocritical (for reasons I explain in my first Hub). After all, was it not Jesus who used to preach against hypocrites and hypocrisy?-- "Judge not, that you be not judged." And I'm pretty sure it was He who also preached love, compassion, acceptance and empathy/sympathy for all our fellow brothers and sisters, men and women-- that is to say, not just those within our borders, or those for whom legal citizenship documents are available.
"Further," Hxprof says in the next paragraph, "we can't take in ALL of the world's 'huddled masses' no matter what the Statue of Liberty says; America would be overwhelmed and then would no longer be a place where the world's huddled masses would want to seek relief."
I have a few points to make here. First off, I did not say in my Hub that we could-- or would have to --take in "ALL" of the world's huddled masses. And, in fact, neither does Lady Liberty. I only say we should honor what it says on the Statue of Liberty, and by that, I mean honor the spirit of what it says. The inscription I quoted does not say, "Give me 'all' your tired, your poor, your huddled masses..." The fact that "all" is not specified makes it all the more compelling to me because it then seems a more reasonable and practical proposition. Indeed, the task is left up to us. Rather than overburdening us with an impossible expectation, Lady Liberty only declares that we will strive to take in as many of the aforementioned as we possibly can. So the inscription is plausible and not impractical yet still idealistic-- which is what we should want with such a conspicuous, significant and monumental symbol of the liberties and feedoms and democratic values inherent to (or at least associated with) The United States of America. If it instead said, "Give us only so many of your tired, your poor, your huddled masses...," I'm pretty sure it would not have the same power or inspire as much hope.
Moreover, it strikes me as somewhat arrogant to think all of the world's huddled masses would want to come here in the first place. There are without a doubt large groups of people around the globe who-- though they may be extremely poor and deprived --are so attached to their own homeland and environments and communities that they have neither the desire nor the inclination to come to the United States. Not to mention it is not uncommon for people abroad to know and grasp (if only instictively, but also likely from first-hand experience with U.S.-based multi-national corporations, which are a supremely influential and dominant force not only in the U.S. but in some other countries as well) more readily than we here do, what is all too often the true nature-- the much less glorified, much less exalted, and much less honorable vision and image --of our society and our culture, making them again less willing to come to "America," or more accurately (since, despite our government's typical attitude and best efforts to the contrary, we do not own the whole of the North and South American continents), The United States of America.
Now this does not mean that there are not great multitudes of people as well who want nothing more than to come to the United States in order to make a better life for themselves and their families and should have the right to do so (as already explained here and in my first Hub). It only means it is not reasonable to presume that all of the "tired, poor and huddled masses" would necessarily want to come here. And just because some of the disadvantaged and underprivileged of the world would prefer to stay where they are, this should in no way invalidate or diminish the right reserved by others to do the opposite and immigrate here to the U.S.
Another thing to keep in mind is that we should not ever discount or underestimate the potential benefits of and advantages to opening up our borders to more immigrants, especially in as rich and wealthy and dynamic a country as ours with so many resources available to us and at our disposal. It is entirely possible that a more open border policy would be a net gain-- not a net drain --to our economy and the overall well-being of our society. More people means, in theory, more man/woman power, more brain power, more creativity, more ingenuity, and so on. (Of course, a less top-down, authoritarian, corporate-dominated system would better maximize this human potential, but that's another issue for another Hub.)
Thus, opening up our borders to a much greater degree would not necessarily lead to America being overwhelmed, as Hxprof says, nor that the U.S. would automatically "no longer be a place where the world's huddled masses would want to seek relief." Our country is more than capable of taking in and bearing many more people than it currently does, and I believe that we have a moral obligation and responsibility to do so with a much more open border policy (as I've previously explained). There is no good reason why considerably more of the "illegal" immigrants already living here could not and should not be given "legal" status as citizens-- just as there is no justifiable reason why so many hundreds of thousands more should have to risk life and limb and self-dignity only to reach the boundaries of our "promised land" as so-called "illegals".
I can hear the critics now: Gasp! "How can you say we could take in and bear more immigrants when we can't support the people we have here now?! In the throes of the worst economic downturn since The Great Depression, with real unemployment at or above ten percent for more than a year now, how could you even have the gall to suggest such nonsense?!"
And my response would be: "Well, that is why I say, 'more than capable', not 'more than ready and prepared,' although I believe we could be ready and prepared if we really want to be (as I hope is the case). We have the means and the resources to employ many millions more people; we're just not doing it. What if, for instance, all the U.S. jobs that have gone to other countries in favor of much cheaper labor markets and governments with no regard for human rights nor qualms about exploiting people and forcing them to work in sweatshops for sub-subsistence wages were still here? Moreover, the problem in the U.S. is never lack of resources and opportunities, but inequitable distribution of those resources and opportunities.
But, really, these factors are incidental. Above all, the reason I feel warranted in saying we should welcome so many more immigrants to our shores and borders is that (as I've argued and expounded upon elsewhere, e.g., in my first Hub) it should not matter whether we're capable or ready for them because they have a God-given right to be here, if they so desire, regardless. And that should be that."
Look, I get it: People are afraid. They're afraid of losing something or of something being taken from them-- whether tangible or not. It may be something one can put a finger on-- basic necessities like food, clothing and shelter, or perhaps other less necessary material comforts and possessions. Or it may be something more abstract-- perhaps just a false sense of losing control or order in one's life. But either way, it is still just selfish, irrational fear, and that is not a good enough reason (for me at least) for our strict border policies and measures.
And it's not that I'm not afraid. I'm probably just as fearful as anyone of losing what limited comfort and luxury (relative to many others) I may have in my life, but that does not mean I am willing to simply ignore and abandon principles of equality and justice and what is right and/or wrong. That is not what I want my country and my government to do either.
It is cowardly to tell less fortunate people that they are not welcome or allowed here-- in the richest, wealthiest and most resourceful country in the world --simply because we are afraid that a more open border could-- but is not guaranteed to --somehow lower our standard of living (already so much higher than theirs) and deprive us of something to which we've become accustomed and feel entitled. We've been grubby and stingy with the rest of the world for far too long now and it is high time we give back any way we can. Opening our borders more and welcoming many more immigrants here is one way we can repent, make amends, and help to relieve the pressure and alleviate the damage abroad that we often in no small measure have caused.