caution

Bordering on insanity

Demagogues have their day

The debate — and I use the term very, very loosely — on immigration policy and border security is new evidence that a job in Congress is hazardous to your mental health.

brain
This is your brain

This is a politician's brain on immigration

For a nation of immigrants, the United States has always been strangely ambivalent about newcomers. Despite the lofty sentiments engraved on a plaque at the Statue of Liberty — "Give me your tired, your poor / Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free...." — successive waves of immigrants have not always received a friendly welcome. Today's immigrants are no exception.

• The culture of fear fostered by the Bushies in the wake of the 9/11 attacks has encouraged a climate of suspicion and distrust in pursuit of potential "evil-doers" who supposedly "hate freedom."

• The economics of globalization put many jobs at risk, beyond the blue-collar manufacturing jobs deemed most vulnerable.

• A booming economy and insanely generous tax cuts that have benefited mostly the very most well-off among us have left the middle- and lower-classes on the short end of the stick.

• Widespread belief that the country is headed in the "wrong direction" and dissatisfaction with elected leaders threatens the supposed permanent Republican rule that has been the dream of GOP strategists like Karl Rove.

In short, these are perfect times for demagoguery, and it is in plentiful supply.

broken borders

On CNN, Lou Dobbs has given his career and CNN's ratings a boost by beating his drum about "broken borders." With zeal more typical of someone running for office than of objective reporting, he includes a segment in nearly every broadcast to harp on illegal immigration and lack of border security.

open border

The long, unguarded borders between the US and Canada and the US and Mexico — once symbolic of the amity between our nations and the openness of our society — have been reframed as symbols of shocking inattention to "securing our borders." Suddenly the millions of people who have entered the US illegally have become a "problem" that must be solved.

Among the more ridiculous proposals is to build a wall along the border with Mexico. History is full of examples of attempts to keep "them" out or in with a wall: The Great Wall of China was supposed to keep the Huns out of China; Hadrian's Wall was supposed to separate the Romans from the barbarians in Scotland; the Berlin Wall was to keep the East Germans in.

fence

What a long, sad way we have come from Ronald Reagan's challenge, "Mr Gorbachev, tear down this wall." GWB blathers on and on about freedom. If you're inside a wall you're not free. Even the Walls of Jericho came tumbling down. Real security will not come from a wall. A wall gives only the appearance of security. Better we should change our foreign policies, give developing nations a boost, be better stewards of the earth's resources.

Guest worker. Bush has long talked about a guest worker program, which doesn't sound too bad on the surface. We already have a guest worker program for high-tech workers (H-1B visas). But I think such programs have two strikes against them: First, they create a group of disenfranchised workers, second-class citizens, as it were, except they are not citizens. Second, guest-worker programs allow employeers to avoid the realities of the labor market. It's not that immigrants do jobs that Americans won't do, it's that Americans won't do them at the wages offered.

Deportation. The notion of sending 12 million people "back where they came from" is ludicrous. It would take a draconian program to find them and process their return. More reasonable people have proposed providing a path to "earned citizenship" including fines, back taxes, etc. But the extremists rail against this, calling it "amnesty" which it is not.

There is a very punitive, mean-spirited attitude afoot. It thrives on prejudice, ignorance, and fear. For the good of the country, it must be stopped.