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Thursday, March 30, 2006

Immigration: Chicago and the new underground railroad 

[UPDATED below]


I regret to say that I have a hard time getting agitated about the immigration issue. Part of this is that I am not a nativist, and I think that the nativist element that has been part of the Republican Party since it absorbed the "Know Nothings" in the late 1850s is just about the GOP's least attractive constituency. Combine that with the fact that I think that Mexican immigrants, legal or otherwise, are a large net positive for the United States (even if not the taxpayers of a few states), and you can see that I am generally unsympathetic with the various people who want to build high walls and secund employers to the INS.

I am, of course, all for trying to keep al Qaeda out of the country, but I generally think that is a hopeless task. If they can sneak into Gaza notwithstanding Israeli security, they can certainly get in to the United States, whether or not we have a southern wall. For starters, they can walk across the vast Canadian border, which is a lot harder to defend than the Mexican. If keeping out the jihadis is the real concern, why don't we build a northern wall? Let's be honest: security against terrorism is mostly an excuse for essentially anti-Mexican immigration policies.

All of that having been said, I think it would be a disaster for the United States to become a de jure bilingual country, a la Canada and Belgium. I am a very strong proponent of the view that the only official language should be English, and that as a society we should look dimly on people who do not make a game effort to learn enough English to get along. The American version of the English language is central to our national identity and founding myths, and if it takes a constitutional amendment to require that only English be used in all government transactions, then let us adopt that amendment post haste. If today's immigrants know that they have to learn English to get along, as the European immigrants did of old, it will speed their assimilation.

All of that leads me to this article from Chicago's Sun-Times, which reports that Chicago's city council has passed an ordinance prospectively nullifying some versions of proposed federal legislation insofar as they relate to the provision of social services. I am actually sympathetic with the City Council (although I wonder if Chicago wants to become a specific magnet for illegal immigrants, which will be the obvious if unintended consequence of this legislation), but the rhetoric in support of this ordinance is over the top even in the long tradition of Chicago blowharditude:

If the great immigration debate now raging in Congress is decided in a way that turns illegal immigrants into criminals, Chicago Police officers and other city employees would not enforce it, the City Council decided Wednesday.

Three weeks after a massive rally in Chicago demanding better treatment of immigrants, Chicago aldermen blazed another trail on the red-hot issue.

They turned a 1989 executive order on immigration into law...

The ordinance passed Wednesday "would say, 'Look, when we provide city services, be it by police or any other city agency, our focus is not immigration status,'" said Ricardo Meza, regional counsel for the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund, who testified in support of the law.

The U.S. Senate is debating legislation this week that would tighten border security while enabling illegal immigrants eventually to become citizens.

But any Senate bill would have to be reconciled with a get-tough measure passed earlier by the House of Representatives. That version would turn illegal immigrants into felons and compel private individuals and employers to report them.

"But there is nothing in the proposed law that says you have to check someone's status before providing them with free city services and opportunities," said Meza. "This law would not supersede employment laws. It is not going to be in conflict with any federal statute."

Finance Committee Chairman Edward M. Burke (14th), the City Council's resident historian, noted that there is Chicago precedent for defying draconian federal laws on human rights issues.

In 1850, Congress passed the Fugitive Slave Act that mandated citizens to report and return runaway slaves to their owners.

Led by then-Mayor James Curtis and Ald. Amos Throop, for whom a Chicago street is named, the City Council ordered Chicago Police officers not to enforce the act.


"I would encourage you to recall the courage and fortitude of our predecessors in refusing to cooperate with extreme and ill-conceived federal law," Burke said.

Huh? Giving social services to illegal immigrants is akin to nullifying the Fugitive Slave Act? Is Alderman Burke really proposing an underground railroad through Chicago for illegal immigrants? I hope Chicago is ready for it.

UPDATE: The same Chicago that elected James Curtiss of Fugitive Slave Act fame (whose remains, incidentally, were "lost" during the construction of Lincoln Park) then elevated one Levi Boone, one of the few significant "Know Nothing" elected officials. Boone campaigned on an anti-immigrant platform -- the unpopular groups of the day were German and Irish Catholics -- and he promptly barred all immigrants from city jobs. He also quite famously banned the sale of beer on Sundays, which led to the Lager Beer Riot of April 21, 1855. So there is all kinds of precedent buried in Chicago's ante-bellum politics. We do not, however, expect today's nativists to invoke the ghost of Mayor Boone to answer Eddie Burke's Fugitive Slave Act analogy.

CWCID: Spoons.

18 Comments:

By Blogger Shochu John, at Thu Mar 30, 01:29:00 PM:

"Huh? Giving social services to illegal immigrants is akin to nullifying the Fugitive Slave Act?"

That's not actually what the Alderman said, rather he "noted there is Chicago precedent for defying draconian federal laws on human rights issues."

Clearly, there is. Both the fugitive slave act and whatever thinly veiled racist rubbish the Know Nothings settle on this time are "draconian federal laws on human rights issues." Do you deny this?

Slavery and this anti-immigration legislation are clearly not on the same scale in terms of human rights abuses, nor by the same token are they equally important to oppose, but that's not what's being claimed here. All that's being claimed is that both are human rights abuses set into federal law that Chicago will defy.

Frankly, the actions of our city government here make me proud to be a Chicagoan. The city actually is standing up for what is right. Again.  

By Blogger TigerHawk, at Thu Mar 30, 01:53:00 PM:

So, are you for or against drinking lagar on Sundays? :)  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thu Mar 30, 05:19:00 PM:

For lager, any day of the week.

As one of the racist Know-Nothings, I'd like to point out that I was all for relaxing the border before 9/11. These guys (at least in NJ) are hard-working, salt-of-the-earth.

But c'mon - this is a different world now. And not caring so much about the Canadian border? It's not flooded by illegal immigrants. This makes a difference when you're trying to smuggle a suicide bomber or a dirty bomb.

Also, note that few drugs come across the Canadian border. Forget about whether drugs should be legalized - focus on where terrorists can get through.

Mike  

By Blogger Shochu John, at Thu Mar 30, 05:38:00 PM:

Tigerhawk,
I am all for drinking of all kinds at all times, especially on Sundays and during business hours. In the best tradition of Cap Streeter and his "Deestrict of Lake Michigan," sometimes you just have to stand up to the government. This is one of those times.

Mike,
I fail to see how the fact that more illegal immigrants come across the Mexican rather than Canadian border makes a whit of difference when trying to prevent terrorists fron entering the country. Are you afraid that a couple of Saudi nationals carrying a suitcase bomb and their prayer rugs are going to be harder to spot because they blend right in with the Mexicans? As opposed to smuggling from Canada, which is so difficult that local high school kids supplement their allowances by bringing large amounts of high grade Vancouver pot into the US? Truly discriminating stoners would disagree with your statement that "few drugs" come from Canada.  

By Blogger TigerHawk, at Thu Mar 30, 05:46:00 PM:

I repeat my ignorant assertion that terrorists would have an easier time coming through Canada than through Mexico. Why? Because the key to the Mexican border is "try, try again." Your basic ambitious Mexican is just going to keep at it, even if caught and deported a couple of times. It seems to me, though, that al Qaeda does not have that option -- "catch and release" is a less plausible option, because the
"release" part is less certain. Better to try crossing through Canada, with its thousands of miles of unprotected borders. Canoe into Minnesota, fer Chrissakes.

My utterly speculative guess is that the odds of getting through at all are higher coming up through Mexico, but the odds of getting through on one attempt are greater from Canada.

In any case, though, I stand by my basic point, which is that it will be tough to protect our borders against a well-planned al Qaeda infiltration. In the consideration of the immigration bills, it is something of a red-herrin.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thu Mar 30, 06:02:00 PM:

According to the first link I found on Google (who knows how accurate?) 90% of both US pot and coke flow along the route through Nuevo Laredo. I assume other routes increase the percentage.

Another piece of evidence for this being a real issue: a few years ago, Boston was shut down for a few days because one smuggler was ticked with another and told the INS the other guy smuggled a dirty bomb. A lot more plausible than on the Canadian border and it wreaked havoc on our current alertness. On the other hand, we've found actual Islamist terrorists on their way in through the Canadian border. I'm guessing this is because the border is less porous.

Mike  

By Blogger Shochu John, at Thu Mar 30, 06:05:00 PM:

I promise this is my last post for awhile. I don't want to be rude and hog the thread, but I have to disagree that the Mexican border is any any way, shape, manner or form easier to get through than the Canadian border. I speak from personal experience, having crossed both. In the summer of 2002, I spent three months in the Boundary Waters on the Minnesota/Ontario border. I had a crew of nine people in three canoes with five huge backpacks that could have easily been filled with explosives, drugs, Chinese sex slaves, or whatever else. We paddled bewteen the US and Canada day in and day out. I never so much as saw a DNR official, let alone a customs or immigration official from either side the entire time. This is in a National Park on the US side and Provincial Park on the Canadian side. It has a signficant amount of visitors at any one time. Most of the border is far more remote. I am convinced that, were I so inclined, I could cross the U.S./Canada border as many times as I wished without ever speaking to a government official on either side.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thu Mar 30, 06:09:00 PM:

To the degree we do use racial profiling, yes I'm also concerned that the Saudis blend a lot easier with Mexicans. How many INS agents would be able to discern Salma Hayek from a crowd of other Mexicans?

OK, bad example, but you see the point.

Mike  

By Blogger GaryS, at Thu Mar 30, 06:35:00 PM:

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.  

By Blogger GaryS, at Thu Mar 30, 06:36:00 PM:

It’s pretty clear you don’t live in Southern California. If you did, I suspect your “no strong opinion” position would change very soon.

For example, if you are injured in an accident here, there is a good chance you will die because more than half of the emergency rooms and trauma centers have closed, bankrupted by the hordes of non-paying illegals getting free medical care. And the rest are overwhelmed pretty much 24/7 for the same reason. Your own financial status won’t help, you may well die before you get to produce that gold card or proof of insurance.

Then there is the fact that approximately 40 % of the convicts in California are illegals, at a cost to taxpayers in the billions. Consider also the fact that more than 30 % of the students in California’s totally pathetic schools system are the children of illegals. At a cost of billions again, but also at the cost of graduating hordes of undereducated, under-performing of all backgrounds.

Next, consider the cultural damage to our cities. A nearby city, Pomona, is in a death spiral. When I moved to the area 25 years ago, we used to shop and go to the movies in Pomona. Now my wife won’t go there at all, and I very seldom do. Almost no one not Hispanic will venture in at night.

It seems that the illegals who came to the area got homesick for filth, poverty, corruption, crime and violence. So now a formerly nice middle class American city looks like, and is, a third world getto. Crime is rampant, the city government and school system are corrupt to the core, and the streets are dirty, chaotic and dangerous.

I could go on, this is only a small sample of what’s going on.

Then there was the interview of an illegal man in the local newspaper yesterday. He was interviewed in Spanish, of course, he has no intention of learning English. One especially interesting part was where he was asked about obeying our laws. He stated that laws were the way rich people keep control of the poor people, so he pays no attention to the laws. What a great addition to our culture!

Finally, there is the real 800 pound gorilla in all this, which is that major violence is now not far below the surface. I’ll bet the pro-illegal immigrant demonstrations sold a lot of guns the last few days. Arrogant, clueless insulated politicians like that idiot Bush and most of the US Senate simply either don’t have any idea what’s happening, or else don’t give a damn.

Very soon now, the MS13 gang, the Mexican military, drug runners or illegal smugglers are going to start killing deputies and Border Patrol agents. There have already been some very close calls. When this happens, armed vigilantes will start patrolling the border areas, and many people will die. Totally fed up people are going to start taking the law into their own hands, just as the illegal immigrants do, and it won’t be pretty.

While I would never participate in this sort of violence, I can’t totally condemn it either. When your own country won’t protect your basic rights, many people will feel that they have to do it themselves.  

By Blogger GaryS, at Thu Mar 30, 06:38:00 PM:

It’s pretty clear you don’t live in Southern California. If you did, I suspect your “no strong opinion” position would change very soon.

For example, if you are injured in an accident here, there is a good chance you will die because more than half of the emergency rooms and trauma centers have closed, bankrupted by the hordes of non-paying illegals getting free medical care. And the rest are overwhelmed pretty much 24/7 for the same reason. Your own financial status won’t help, you may well die before you get to produce that gold card or proof of insurance.

Then there is the fact that approximately 40 % of the convicts in California are illegals, at a cost to taxpayers in the billions. Consider also the fact that more than 30 % of the students in California’s totally pathetic schools system are the children of illegals. At a cost of billions again, but also at the cost of graduating hordes of undereducated, under-performing of all backgrounds.

Next, consider the cultural damage to our cities. A nearby city, Pomona, is in a death spiral. When I moved to the area 25 years ago, we used to shop and go to the movies in Pomona. Now my wife won’t go there at all, and I very seldom do. Almost no one not Hispanic will venture in at night.

It seems that the illegals who came to the area got homesick for filth, poverty, corruption, crime and violence. So now a formerly nice middle class American city looks like, and is, a third world getto. Crime is rampant, the city government and school system are corrupt to the core, and the streets are dirty, chaotic and dangerous.

I could go on, this is only a small sample of what’s going on.

Then there was the interview of an illegal man in the local newspaper yesterday. He was interviewed in Spanish, of course, he has no intention of learning English. One especially interesting part was where he was asked about obeying our laws. He stated that laws were the way rich people keep control of the poor people, so he pays no attention to the laws. What a great addition to our culture!

Finally, there is the real 800 pound gorilla in all this, which is that major violence is now not far below the surface. I’ll bet the pro-illegal immigrant demonstrations sold a lot of guns the last few days. Arrogant, clueless insulated politicians like that idiot Bush and most of the US Senate simply either don’t have any idea what’s happening, or else don’t give a damn.

Very soon now, the MS13 gang, the Mexican military, drug runners or illegal smugglers are going to start killing deputies and Border Patrol agents. There have already been some very close calls. When this happens, armed vigilantes will start patrolling the border areas, and many people will die. Totally fed up people are going to start taking the law into their own hands, just as the illegal immigrants do, and it won’t be pretty.

While I would never participate in this sort of violence, I can’t totally condemn it either. When your own country won’t protect your basic rights, many people will feel that they have to do it themselves.  

By Blogger GaryS, at Thu Mar 30, 06:44:00 PM:

Sorry about the double post. Blogger doesn't seem to like Firefox.  

By Anonymous Lisa, at Thu Mar 30, 07:18:00 PM:

I live in Austin, Texas. I agree with GaryS. I've been listening to local talk radio a lot lately (KLBJ 590 & WOAI 1200). Illegals are putting a huge strain on this state. Educating the children of illegal aliens, uninsured drivers without licenses, thank God I haven't had to go to an emergency room. In border towns, the hospitals have to deal with "drive by pregnancies" - a pregnant Mexican national will come into the US on a day pass, and go to the hospital to have her baby. Instant American citizen. I'm sure that is a problem in New Mexico, Arizona and California, too. California passed a law to outlaw that, but it was apparently found to be unconstitutional. Border security is completely out of hand. I am more worried about the Mexican border than the Canadian. All you'd need to do is have a terrorist learn to speak Spanish and dress like all the other illegals, and it would be hard to pick out who really doesn't belong....  

By Blogger honestpartisan, at Fri Mar 31, 08:44:00 AM:

GaryS - according to this article, there are a variety of studies on the economic effects of immigration, and they seem to show that there's either a small net benefit of immigration or it's a wash.

It might not matter to you, though, given your complaints about "cultural" degradation that those of us who don't live in Southern California can't appreciate.

Well, I live in Brooklyn, in a neighborhood thick with immigrants from Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago, Guyana, and Panama. If you go a little further out from my neighborhood, you run into neighborhoods filled with immigrants from Bangladesh, Russia, Poland, Nigeria, Bosnia, Senegal, Pakistan, and Israel. And this stretch of neighborhoods hasn't been this vibrant in a long time. The same thing could be said about a variety of neighborhoods throughout the outer boroughs, from Sunset Park to Jackson Heights to Pelham Parkway.

Maybe those of us on the East Coast just lucked out in the kind of immigrants we got, or maybe this is a matter of perception. The negative perception you have of the communities you observed echo complaints people had about Irish, Italian, and Jewish immigrants of generations past (indeed, if you look at the discourse of the time, native-born Americans were a lot more freaked out about them then anyone I've heard in today's debate is about Mexicans). The progeny of those immigrants have changed, and they have also changed the U.S. in the process, making both better off.  

By Blogger Charlottesvillain, at Fri Mar 31, 04:10:00 PM:

the problem is when illegal immigrants are given de facto access to social services that are put in place to help the less well off Americans. It is these resources that are under the most pressure, and these benefits create part of the incentive to cross the border. We probably have too much humanity to simply deny services to illegal immigrants (such as ER, public education, etc) but that is really the issue, IMHO. A hard line on that would preserve those resources for the tax paying citizens for which they are intended, and remove one of the fundamental benefits of getting here. All the rest is BS in my mind.  

By Blogger Dawnfire82, at Fri Mar 31, 08:27:00 PM:

Put me in with Lisa and Gary. I lived in Austin for a few years while I was in college, and for a while I lived off Oltorf. For those of you who don't know, that's the most dangerous, crime-ridden section of the city where rapes, cocaine, drive bys and other shootouts, and street-walkers are normal. I wasn't there two months when my apartment block was raided by SWAT. Most people I knew referred to it as 'the Mexican ghetto.' My girlfriend (now wife) and I were 2 of about 30 people on the street who spoke English. I went (upon the advice of neighbors) with her to walk the dog and made her carry a weapon when I couldn't be there with her because there was a very real possibility that she would be kidnapped and raped. ("Pretty white girl in the wrong neighborhod.") Behold the glory of mass illegal immigration.

You can go here to verify my claims. I lived on Burton Dr. and Riverside and Oltorf were two adjacent streets.

http://www.ci.austin.tx.us/police/sex_offender

The difference, honestpartisan, is (I think) the numbers. So many Mexicans cross over that they literally take over whole towns, as in the case detailed above by another poster. Entire sections of major cities speak only Spanish. There is no pressure to integrate and become Americanized; (like the Irish, Poles, Italians, et cetera) rather, they seem to be happy with what the Europeans call 'multi-culturalism.' Kind of like what the French have with Arab immigrants and the Germans with Turkish ones, and we see where that's gotten them yes? i.e. Entire swathes of the population who don't speak the language, don't recognize the authority of the government, (and, hence, its laws) and have separatist/revolutionary fantasies.

Essentially, there are so god damned many of them that are localized that they create their own mini-states with a solidly legitimate affiliate culture.

I didn't used to be racist. I wasn't raised that way and I understand intellectually that it is unfair and kind of stupid. But you can only take so much of seeing stereotypes come to life and failed expectations, of seeing a crowd of about 15 people waiting for the bus and knowing for a fact that three of them (20%!) are registered sex offenders, two deal drugs, one who has groped my girlfriend multiple times and whom I had to threaten to shoot, and they're all Mexican...  

By Blogger Dan Morgan, at Fri Mar 31, 11:51:00 PM:

"I think that Mexican immigrants, legal or otherwise, are a large net positive for the United States"

Mexican immigrants do hard, dirty work. They come here uneducated, impoverished, but willing to work hard. It is estimated that there will be 100 million Hispanics in the U.S. by 2050. If the border traffic is not dramatically reduced, this number could be even higher.

Whites will become a minority around 2050.

We must think of the future and what this all means. In Amy Chua's book World on Fire, she warns of what happens when "market dominant minorities" mix with a majority who are not market dominant. Based on the patterns throughout Latin America and other countries, what should be expected is greatly increased economic inequalities in the US. At the top, in terms of wealth and income, will be whites and Asians and at the bottom will be masses of low-income Hispanics and blacks.

So how is this a net positive?  

By Blogger Dawnfire82, at Sun Apr 02, 04:13:00 AM:

I think that 1) you changed the topic and 2) how is that terribly different from how things are now?

'Economic inequality' is always thrown around as such a terrible thing. And I guess it is, to socialists. But this is a capitalist nation; there will always be a rich and a poor, because rich and poor are relatively defined. Our poor are living in near luxury (electricity, clean water, transportation, mass media, et cetera) compared to, say, India's poor.

And introducing race into economics is bullshit; one has nothing to do with the other. It's all about drive, effort, and opportunity, and minorities get more help and opportunity than majority here. (affirmative action, race-based scholarships, et cetera) So theoretically, they ought to be improving moreso, right?  

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