Saturday, March 03, 2012

A Touchy Subject

Perhaps it is more than a semantic argument; but if so, someone is going to have to explain it to me. I know that I have railed against it before but I still do not understand why the phrase “Illegal Immigrant” is considered so bad!

There was just a piece on the news about Immigrations and Customs Enforcement is reviewing the records of convicted felons here in Colorado looking for what was euphemistically referred to as “undocumented persons.” What? They’re looking for people who have never been the subject of a film? That’s not their job! Their job is to enforce immigrations and customs law.

One of the sides of the story was about protests that are going on outside of the ICE headquarters trying to get them not to deport the felons that are discovered to be here illegally. I do not know how to put this more plainly. “I don’t get it!” If the person in question has entered the country in a manner that is not in accordance with immigrations law, they are here (by its very definition) illegally! A person who has moved or migrated from one country to another is an immigrant in the country to which they have migrated. Hence the phrase “Illegal Immigrant” meaning one who has immigrated not in accordance to the law of the country is the correct description.

I have heard the argument made by the local La Raza spokesperson make the argument that calling them “Illegal Immigrants” dehumanizes them. What!? How? It is not like a chair can immigrate! I we were to call them “bootlegged,” “contraband,” or “proscribed” it could be conceived of as being dehumanizing, but to call them “illegal immigrants” is simply a correct technical description.

I wish someone would explain this to me. Is it that the legal status of the persons in question is being challenged? That is easily enough settled. Answer this one simple question: “Did the person in question enter the country legally?” if not, then they are an illegal immigrant.

An alternative explanation is possible. Is it, perhaps, that you feel the immigration laws of the United States are unreasonably strict? If so we have a completely different debate. An while I am not saying that THAT debate is not one that needs to be had, it is not the one that we are currently having. The story that I saw included a quote from a Colorado Congressman (one with whom I do not often agree, but on this one point I think Tom Tancredo is correct) who said that we should not be asking our Law Enforcement Officers to NOT enforce the law.

I agree! If it is the LAW you have a problem with, then work to change the law. If it is the ENFORCEMENT of the law that you have an issue with, then get over it! Which laws should we just not enforce next? If a law is a bad law it should be revised or repealed.

Wherever you are today I hope you will have a great day – legally.

Don Bergquist – March 03, 2012 – Lakewood, Colorado, USA


Anonymous said...

Hi - I think I discussed this question with you online a couple of years ago. My point at that time was kind of the O.J. Simpson argument that if rich people can get away with breaking laws that poor people can't get away with then it seems hypocritical to enforce the law harsely on poor people who feel they have to move to the United States because they cannot survive in their own country. I think that maybe that is why some people do not want to see illegal immigrants dehumanized. They might have already been dehumanized by the circumstances in their lives.

Now that the drug cartels have been committing mass murders in Mexico I think that more people than ever understand why poor people from Mexico would try to move to the United States illegally (because they can't move here legally and they feel that they must move in order to survive).

I myself was raised to respect the law and I have probably met illegal immigrants who thought I looked like a NARC and who would be afraid to get to know me too well for fear that I might turn them in.

I'm rambling a bit but I'm wondering if maybe some of your hostility towards people who have gotten away with living and working illegally in the United States has something to do with the fact that you wanted to stay in the UK at one time and you were not allowed to. I'm kidding of course but maybe there is just a little bit of sour grapes there.

I'm curious about your opinion on something. Do you think that if the UK shared a border with a country like Mexico they would have had the same problems that the United States has had with illegal immigration? I think it would be a lot harder to sneak into the UK than it is to sneak into the United States.

Thanks again for letting me comment on your comments.

Anonymous Reader

Don Bergquist said...

Dear Anonymous Reader,

Thanks for reading and commenting on my blog.

We may well have corresponded on this topic previously. It continues to baffle me and it is a long-running source of consternation with me. I agree with you that some immigrants who come here illegally do so because they feel that there is no way to do it within the law. I also understand that there are places in the world that are dangerous to live.

We are lucky to live in such an open and permissive society (though, if certain factions within our society get their way the country will be far less open and permissive – it is interesting that the people who are so vocal in their opposition to theocracy in other countries want to impose one in this country – but I digress…) and I can fully understand the motivation that causes people to come here illegally.

The point I was trying to make was that the people who insist that “Undocumented Workers” is somehow a better term than “Illegal Immigrant” are being semantically disingenuous. My argument was not that they should be dehumanized, but that the Political Correctness around this term serves only to take the focus off the issue. The issue is that the people in question are here illegally. The news story was about people protesting to get the law enforcement agencies here to stop enforcing the law. This is really closing the barn door after the bats have fled the belfry! The action is not germane to the problem!

My point was that there are only two valid solutions to the illegal immigration problem. You either enforce the laws as they exist, or you change the laws. I am of mixed feelings on this topic. I can see the “enforce the law” argument as being a valid one. It is ethically and semantically a valid move on the society’s part.

Morally, I am more for the “change the law” side of the argument. The laws, as they exist, force a large segment of the population – that part that is here, admittedly, without legal standing – underground where they fall victim to so many indignities and inequities. Morally we need to do something the help this segment of the population.

The protestors may be trying to point out that the ethics and morality of the situation do not align, but the action they have taken is akin to trying to tell matches not to start fires. The purpose of “Law Enforcement Agencies” is to enforce laws. They are not institutions of morality, presumably, the population considered the morality of the law (where applicable) when it was enacted. The moral question does not enter into their bailiwick.

I hope this clarifies my viewpoint.

Thanks again for reading and commenting my blog!


Anonymous said...

After reading your comment to my comment I realized that you are concerned about the fact that not all laws are being enforced. Or at least I think that is what you are saying.

I think that most people are of the opinion that the only laws that should be enforced are the laws that they like personally. Perhaps you are one of the few Purists left in an impure world.

I just read your comments about Rush Limbaugh too. At one time a couple of years ago I was thinking that being as he is outspoken and so are you, that I was going to suggest that maybe you could get a job writing for him. But I realize now that the fact that both of you like to rant and rave doesn't mean that you are on the same page on the issues.

Anonymous Reader

Don Bergquist said...

Dear Anonymous Reader,

Thanks for reading and commenting on my blog! Please accept my delay in response. I am currently on a business trip and very busy – I missed the notification that I had pending comments and only this morning noticed it again as I was doing some cleaning-up of my email inbox.

I certainly hope that you are not – in any way – equating what I do with the random mean-spirited, misogynistic, and occasional racist rants of Rush Limbaugh! There are so many demonstrable ways that that is untrue.

For one thing, my ‘rants’ as I ironically refer to them are usually either fact-based or opinion based-on-fact based. For another I have clearly disclaimed my blog as containing the ‘occasional’ un-truth. The easiest job I can think of – for someone disinterested enough to have it, I mean – would be Rush Limbaugh’s ‘Fact Checker.’ I imagine the meetings would go something like this”

Rush: “I am going to claim that it is a Feminist-Nazi-Democratic coalition in congress that killed the bill that would have made killing puppies illegal and slipped a tax increase to pay for Viagra for gay whales.”

Fact Checker: “Oh, man! Yeah! I remember that.”

Rush: “And then, after the break, I’m going tell the people how the Democrats have been pretending that ‘Global Warming’ and I’ll end the hour revealing the new secret plot, that the ‘fluoride’ the Democrats mandated in our water supply actually causes cancer and makes you gay!”

Fact Checker: “No way, dude, really? – Uh, dude, you gonna eat that last Oxycontin?”

At least, that is how I imagine it goes.

Also, there is that habit he has of immediately cutting off and insulting anyone who calls in to disagree with him. He doesn’t want a discourse, he wants a monologue.

Perhaps it is just the fact that I once was forced to listen to his show as an auditor for ASCAP. Perhaps it is just that I have a fundamental dislike for someone who is so disingenuous and hateful. Perhaps we will never know what my problem with Rush is. Whatever the issue, I am glad that you have realized that there is a difference.

I hope that your last statement is an admission that you can be an opinionated jerk without being so hateful about it… That is how I like to think of myself, as an opinionated person who can occasionally be a jerk – without being a complete asshole about it!

Being out of the country, I am not privy to all my usual sources of info – I hear that the fall-out from him calling that law student a whore continues – Perhaps the advertisers have learned the lesson from the old oriental adage: “He who rides a tiger can never dismount.”

Thanks again for your comments – even when unflattering, I welcome feedback from my readers.


Anonymous said...

The US is still very much politicized so I fear that Rush will stay on the air for a while longer. But I am pleased to hear that Republicans are starting to be more critical of their Presidential nominees. I think that some people who have been holding ridiculous beliefs are starting to question the value of holding ridiculous beliefs. I think the tough economy is what may be causing that. Ridiculous beliefs might be fun but they don't put food on the table.

Thanks for responding to my comments from down under. And I can see now that you wouldn't last very long working for Mr. Limbaugh.

Anonymous Reader

Don Bergquist said...

Dear Anonymous,

You're right! I would not last long working for Rush. It would become intolerable almost immediately.

You're right about the candidates being so 'out there'! I sincerely hope that the veneer of credibility is wearing thin on the undercoating of crazy! The interest down here on the process that is going on back home is amazing! I have been asked a few times to explain it; and although I have no problem explaining how the process works technically, the reason it is so skewed from what the founding fathers imagined – or at least what I was taught they imagined – is inexplicable.

One of the biggest eye-rollers that I have heard of was the comment that Rick Santorum has been reported as having made in Puerto Rico. Did he really tell the voters of that territory that if they ever wanted to become a state they should learn to speak English!?

What will he think of next? Telling kindergarteners that there will be no recess? “If you expect to be big boys and girls, GROW UP!”

The process has run amok!

Thanks again for reading and commenting!