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Longing to Breathe Free

Original post made by Tom Cushing, Danville, on Jun 26, 2012

Americans are fond of asserting a "melting pot"Ě image to explain the assimilation of successive waves of immigrants. That metaphor has never really appealed to your scribe, conjuring at best an amorphous, gooey mass of dissimilar ingredients there's a good reason why all those fondue pots are in permanent attic storage.

Somebody might better have chosen a "salad bowl" descriptor with compatible ingredients that retain some part of their flavors, but both approaches fail to convey the hostility with which each identifiable group of new Americans has been greeted -- at least since the Massachusetts tribes made the mistake of hosting Thanksgiving.

Newcomers have had to shoulder their way toward the mainstream, overcoming blatant and subtle obstacles erected by those who happened to come before them. On one level, that seems odd in a country settled in significant measure by those who couldn't get along in their native lands; but on another plane not-so-much, as folks who have struggled mightily to carve their niche may be disinclined to share it.

This has been a significant month for immigration policy. First, President Obama announced a new enforcement approach by Executive Order, which incorporates much of the unrealized Dream Act. By its provisions, persons now under 30, who were brought here illegally as minors, who have graduated high school and stayed out of trouble with the law will be issued work permits -- thus paving the way for their addition to the salad. And just this week, the Supreme Court delivered a split decision on the AZ law that sought to facilitate state-level enforcement of federal immigration statutes.

The Justices struck down parts of the AZ law that are "preempted by the feds" meaning there's no room for any concurrent state jurisdiction over the subject, but upheld the "reasonable suspicion"Ě provision that allows the police to demand papers from those they "reasonably believe"Ě may be here illegally.

Now, as to the Executive Order, the President characterized it as the right thing to do. I agree, although I'd add that it's "doing well by doing good," it may have locked-up the Hispanic vote for the Dems, as Mr. Romney's ham-handed non-response won him no friends he didn't already have (the more I see of him in "action," the more I have a sneaking suspicion that he is incapable of independent analytical thought, and his handlers hadn't yet told him what he thinks). I see no justice in punishing young people in those circumstances.

The ėreasonable suspicion" situation, however, gives me great pause. If it means arresting some guy in a dashiki who's hanging around the airport with a Stinger missile, then by all means do so. I fear, however, that in keeping with our history, this will be an invitation now to be copied by other states to profile drivers by their apparent ethnicity. I have heard enough stories from people I trust about the perceived offense of "driving while black"Ě to be concerned about how enforcement will proceed.

More broadly, I have never been overly concerned about economic illegals -- those who have come north seeking opportunity (a flow which has slowed to a crawl as those opportunities have become fewer in this lousy economy). They contribute important labor and significant tax and fee revenue, and bear the personal rigors of situations in which the law is not there to defend them. I understand there are health system effects, but unless/until we otherwise get that chaos in order, I just don't care. There may also be some free education provided, but that's just not the kind of issue that sets my blood to boil.

I am hopeful for a pragmatic eventual resolution that is long on realities, and short on ideology. The illegals I fear are those who come to spread the Mexican drug trade/wars northward, and others who mean to do us harm as a society. It's also my hope that most of the federal and state resources directed at the problem will go after those types.

Until that time, "Give me your tired, your poor"Ě is a noble expression of aspiration, but a misstatement of actual American history, and present policy.

Comments (5)

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Posted by American
a resident of Danville
on Jun 27, 2012 at 9:53 am

Tom: I read last week the cover story in Time Magazine, about the illegal alien who came to the U.S. with his parents when he was young, went to college, got a driver's license(by providing false information), obtained a very good job as a journalist(again by providing false information), and by all accounts is a hardworking, tax paying, good guy, and living the "American dream".

Of course, most people have complete empathy for young children who come here illegally with their parents, as they have no control over this issue.

However, there are some issue that the journalist writing the article in Time Magazine, never addressed, and I do not believe President Obama has really addressed either:

What do you tell that guy who played by the rules, filled out the forms honestly and correctly, paid all the necessary fees and expenses(which are not cheap), and waited until he was lawfully given permission to come to the U.S. and work? Why did he jump through all those hoops, pay those fees, fill out those forms, if he could have simply come here illegally?

Also, what affect does this have on others who are using illegal driver's licenses? Is the criminal statute on falsing using a driver's license suddenly null and void? Isn't that selective enforcement of a law, again, discriminatory by nature? So, the actual U.S. Citizen who falsely uses a driver's license has legal defenses and less legal rights than the illegal alien who uses a false driver's license?

Tom, isn't this creating a slippery slope, when you suddenly start ignoring enforcement of laws for some over others? Is that what American has become, a country where people are treated differently under the law, due to their race, national origin? What are your thoughts on these issues, Tom?



If we are going to have certain "amnesties" given to certain people, isn't that by it's own nature, a discriminatory practice, arbitrary and capricious, and subject to change at any moment(particulary when someone like President Obama decides to do it right before an election)?

Although I have complete empathy for the young children brought here illegally, I think we are doing severe damage to jurisprudence and justice with this selective enforcement of laws.




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Posted by underdog
a resident of another community
on Jun 27, 2012 at 3:57 pm

A co-worker of mine recently went through the rigors of attaining US Citizenship. He was rightfully proud and ecstatically happy. Great guy, great family. He shared with many of us the questions on his tests and there were those who fared not well in answering the questions. That is, many of our own US Citizens would not breeze through the process, many perhaps most would fail. Although the president's citizenship has been questioned, as a teacher of Constitutional Law at Harvard, he would no doubt have an easy time of it. A member of the tea party, highly doubtful. Like to see Mitt, Jan Brewer, Sarah Palin, and the other GOP folks take a cold swing at it. Might be interesting, might be laughable.


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Posted by Tom Cushing
a resident of Alamo
on Jun 28, 2012 at 8:33 am

Hi American:

Here are my thoughts, for what they may be worth:

1 -- what do you say to the guy who played by the rules? I think you say: "Welcome, citizen." Not to be flip (which is Mr. Romney's job), but that person's situation is just different from the kid brought here illegally by her folks, and he's not damaged by the break she appropriately gets. I think you also seriously underestimate the problems associated with getting here and staying here illegally. It's not a great choice for the non-desperate -- as we are seeing by the ebbing flow over our southern border.

2 -- as to the slippery slope, I think there's a line with Principle on one end, and Pragmatism on the other. Principle is an excellent thing -- the rule-of-law provides predictability and a sense of justice and equal protection to the system. Most of the time, we ought to decide things on Principle (and we do). Occasionally, however, as when a problem that has been allowed to fester for generations finally gets addressed, we just ought to acknowledge that Principle must give way to the realities of the situation in service to a workable solution for the future.

If you do that too often, Then I think you risk slipping down the slope -- but here the economy depends in important ways on this labor, there's no workable solution that's long on Principle, and these circumstances really are exceptional. I think the Truth and Reconciliation process in South Africa was another example -- some bad folks got away with murder, literally, but the country moved ahead and away from apartheid quickly and effectively.

I think reasonable minds can differ as to when adherence to Principle becomes the "foolish consistency" hobgoblin, but I'm pretty comfortable that an exception as to immigration won't bring down the Republic.


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Posted by American
a resident of Danville
on Jun 28, 2012 at 9:00 am

Tom: No disrespect, but I think you response was "flip", because you really do not want to address the real problems that arise from this selective enforcement of the law.

The U.S. is a law and order nation, where the rule of law is what keeps our Constitution afloat.

You and President Obama are seeking to destroy the rule of law, in order to reach a conclusion you favor. Again, I have complete empathy for the young child brought here illegally, he had no control over the situation. But the rule of law, and our Constitution, must take priority, over empathy for the young illegal child.

The guy who played by the rules, followed the law, filled out the forms, paid the fees, and came when he was legally allowed to come, has been discriminated against and treated unfairly and his due process rights have been violated by our President's actions.

I think a similiar analogy would be the guy who wants to take his son to a movie. He waits in line, follows the rules, pays the admission fee, and when allowed he takes his son to the movie. Compare that to the guy who sneaks in the back door of the movie theatre, did not wait in line, did not pay the admission fee, and came in illegally. Surely, you do not blame the boy, who had no control over coming in illegally. But when found by the usher, or immigration, the boy and his father are removed from the theatre, as it would be unfair and a violation of the rule of law to those who played by the rules and paid the fee and came when legally allowed.

Furthermore, assume you are the public defender, and you have two clients charged with illegally using a false driver's license. One of your clients is an illegal alien, and one is a U.S. citizen. Under President Obama's order, you can get the illegal alien off from criminal proceedings, but not the U.S. citizen. The U.S. citizen actually has less rights now than the illegal alien. The U.S. citizen is being discriminated against due to his national origin.

The rule of law is being destroyed, and no matter how much empathy you have for the young illegal alien, keeping our Constitution afloat must take priority over empathy.


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Posted by Tom Cushing
a resident of Alamo
on Jun 28, 2012 at 10:39 am

As usual, I think Emerson gets it right:

"A foolish Consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen, philosophers, and divines. With [such] consistency, a great soul simply has nothing to do."

In other words, there comes a point when adherence to a rule is slavish, and does more harm than good. I think there's room to exercise judgment to make exceptions to rules (or change them if only the GOP would play ball of any kind). The trick is to have the discipline and judgment to limit those situations, and not allow the exception to swallow the rule.

I just think this is one of those situations. I do take some offense at being accused of thereby destroying the Constitution. I daresay I love it more than most -- and certainly more than the guy who called it "just a damn' piece of paper."


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