Motives of the Anti-Illegal Immigration Crowd
Where I'm Coming From
I am an opponent of illegal immigration. I am a proponent of government activity to curb illegal immigration (whatever works), and a proponent of keeping legal immigration restrictions, but setting them far more permissively than their current levels.
I'm frequently outraged by the statements of those who oppose government activity to curb illegal immigration. My outrage stems from their insistence that anyone with my views is a racist, or a bigot, or prejudiced against Hispanics. This adds to my existing outrage at the whole illegal immigration situation.
For if the situation itself is frustrating (and it is), the slander of those who want it fixed with that all-purpose put-down of the modern era, "racist," is downright insulting.
No Klansmen Here
The vast majority of people with my views are neither racist, nor bigoted, and the vast majority of their prejudice against Hispanics is to pre-judge, perfectly logically, that most working-class Hispanics (a.) speak Spanish, but either don't speak English, or speak it with minimal fluency or a heavy accent; (b.) are very hard workers; and (c.) have a smaller sense of "personal space" than most Americans. It really is that benign.
"Nonsense," you say. "We all have a bit of bigotry in us, we just suppress it," you say. "You're underestimating the racism of those who share your views because you don't want to be associated with their disreputable attitudes," you say. "You're a Pollyanna if you think foes of illegal immigration aren't racists," you say.
Yes, most (all?) people have prejudices which they suppress, and perhaps acknowledge as sin, and perhaps confess to their priest. But that attribute is therefore not unique to foes of illegal immigration; how then is it an argument against their views? "Oh," you say, "it's because their views are caused by their bigotry; they wouldn't hold them otherwise."
Not so. There is a far more obvious cause for those views, as I'll show below.
And as for the few foes of illegal immigration who are racists, what does their existence show? No one can avoid sharing political opinions with some unsavory characters, no matter what those views are! Your views -- whatever they are! -- are likely shared by junkies or pedophiles or Marxists or Klansmen or some other sort of scumbags; will you therefore abandon those views? If you oppose the death penalty, you share that characteristic with (one assumes) 99% of death-row inmates. Does that mean the majority of death penalty opponents are violent criminals? On the subject of opposing illegal immigration, I'm not arguing that there aren't racists who agree; I'm arguing that 99% of those who agree aren't racist.
You see, there are few spheres of corporate life in which the American public has spoken more firmly and unanimously than on the topic of illegal immigration. Polls abound, but their findings can be summed up in this way:
- Most don't mind hardworking immigrants who came in legally;
- Most think it's immoral and criminal to enter the U.S. illegally, or overstay a visa, and that this crime should be prosecuted, with leniency for non-violent first offenders, and harsher punishment for repeat offenders, those with prior criminal records, and those who committed a crime while in the U.S.;
- Most would be perfectly willing to allow more and longer work visas, and thereby increase the flow of legal entrants, if they could just be sure that illegal immigration would be stopped;
- Most, in short, just want our guests to "sign the guest register on their way in."
Of course not. The views described above are held by large majorities of American citizens. It is silly to believe that some 60%-80% (depending on the poll and the way the question is asked) of the American public, whose attitudes toward Mexicans have generally always been positive or neutral (especially when compared to attitudes toward outsiders from elsewhere...like, say, the French!) suddenly became raving bigots one day.
And am I a Pollyanna for saying so? Perhaps I look that way when I am compared to a cynic. For when you observe a man's actions and immediately assume that they stem from a dark and contemptible motive despite (a.) his denial, and (more importantly), (b.) his given motive being not only more noble but also a better explainer of his actions, then you are not being realistic. You're being a cynic; that is, you're being biased, and intellectually dishonest, and unloving to the man in question.
"Okay, dammit," you say, "What other motive could there be? How can anything other than racism and nativism explain the vivid anger, the emotional energy, of illegal immigration foes?"
The Reason For All The Vim And Vigor
Easy. It's outrage. It is outrage at the disrespect being shown for two things, two values. They are noble values, worthy of respect. They are values which Americans prize very highly; for they are values which are central to our self-definition as a nation. And on the topic of illegal immigration, Americans see these values as being disregarded, even spit upon.
They are: The Rule of Law and The Right of the Little Guy for His Voice To Be Heard.
"Okay, how," you may ask, "have the Rule of Law and the Right of The Little Guy To Have His Say been shown disrespect on the subject of illegal immigration?"
A Catalog of Outrages
(1.) Many elected representatives don't want to execute the public's will to enforce immigration laws. So they choose to ignore public will, or worse, to feign obedience until the public's attention is distracted, and then avoid follow-through. They thereby show disrespect not only for the law but for the public; they think we're "that gullible."
(2.) Many business owners don't care to abide by the law or encourage obedience to it when there's a bigger profit in violating it or encouraging violations of it. So they hire illegal alien workers, and market products and services to illegal aliens. They thereby show disrespect not only for the law but for their law abiding customers, who naturally enough conclude that they'd market their products to pedophiles, if the market were big enough to make it worth their while; the feelings of their other customers obviously don't matter a damn.
(3.) Illegal aliens have marched publicly in the streets of America, demanding more from the citizens of America than the jobs and government services they've already received. In so doing they spit in the faces of their hosts, showing deep ingratitude and answering hospitality with scorn, presumption, and peevishness.
You'll notice that, of the three "outrages" listed above, the first two are committed by Americans; only the third directs any anger at the illegal immigrants themselves, and only in response to the marches and the use of political maneuvering. It's not the presence of the illegal aliens itself -- let alone their race! -- that provokes feelings of anger amongst American citizens. It is, in short, "the nerve."
The craven politicians were the first source of citizen fury. "Just allow us this one amnesty," they said back in the 1980's, "and we'll fix border security so it'll never be a problem again." Well, the citizens allowed that one amnesty, and nothing was done about the border, and here we are 20+ years later with a worsened situation, and here are the politicians trying the same line! "Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice...." The nerve of those people, pulling the same stunt twice!
As for businesses, most Americans didn't mind their landscape work being done at low cost; they didn't mind their homes being built for low cost; they didn't mind their groceries being grown and harvested at low cost. But the low cost was not the only reason the business owners didn't come under much fire for hiring illegals. It was also because Americans acknowledged that if Contractor X were to not hire illegals, and Contractor Y did hire them, Contractor X would be out of business shortly thereafter. Who, then, could blame Contractor X for giving in and hiring them?
But that changed when credit card companies and banks began to target services and products and commercials at illegals. The average American doesn't see them as risking bankruptcy for doing otherwise. But here they were, rewarding scofflaws with special deals not available to the law abiding?! The nerve of those people!
And as for the illegal immigrants themselves, the "scofflaws?" Well, most Americans knew about illegal immigrants but mostly felt sorry for them, until they marched and made themselves into a special-interest group with grievances and a political lobby. Then the attitude changed.
Walk A Mile In American Moccasins
Imagine you wake up one night to find a burglar in your house. At first you are frightened; then you see it is some starving waif who wants food. Even though the sanctity of your castle has been violated, your mercy gets the better of your anger, and you give them some food. But then the burglar stands eye to eye with you, shoves his nose into yours, and defiantly shouts, "More!" Then he sits down on your couch, puts his feet up on your coffee table, turns on your television, and glares at you daring you to gainsay his actions. What cheek, what gall, what outrageous nerve!
Under the circumstances, I think you could be forgiven for having suddenly reduced sympathy for the burglar's hunger pains. Under the circumstances, I think you could be forgiven for kicking the bugger out. Under the circumstances, I think you could be forgiven for installing new deadbolts and a security system. And while you might relent and send a little money, or some food coupons, his way, you'd send them to his address.
If The Moccasin Fits...
The above scenario describes how Americans feel, not toward illegal immigrants who come, in dire need, asking for work, but toward illegal immigrants who come demanding government services and amnesty, using political lobbying tactics to force citizens to accede. That, then, is the source of the otherwise unexplainable ire. It is the source of the emotional language coming from foes of illegal immigration. They are fed up with American elites disregarding the voice of the public, fed up with flagrant disrespect for the Rule of Law, fed up with presumptuous demands made by people who had no business being here to begin with, and whom Americans would have felt willing to generously assist, until they began to show such disdain for their hosts.
(Don't disregard the importance to the Average American for respecting the Rule of Law. We are a nation of folks who stop at the red light at 3 a.m. when nobody is around for miles. And even when we're not, we think less of the person who runs the red-light. When we hear that a police car was waiting unseen nearby and that the person has received a ticket, we say, "Serves 'em right."
And the Law is Our Will. We The People make those laws -- yes, even the undeniably crappy ones, like our current dysfunctional mishmash of immigration laws -- through our representatives. Don't like 'em? Fine, tell us how to change them. That's the right way to deal with a bad law, you change it. But just ignore it? No. That's an outrage. Pretend that you're engaging in "civil disobedience" even though no rights of your own were at stake? Now you're insulting the memory of the civil rights marchers and the sit-ins. Don't even go there; your claim is nowhere in the same ballpark; it's not even in the same zip code.)
And, yes, there are other considerations (such as the horrible unfairness of the reality that, sans enforcement, it is the fence-jumper who is rewarded with a job in the U.S., and the law-abiding legal immigrant who is rewarded with a months- or years-long wait for a visa), but these are all secondary. They're not what prompts the most emotion from illegal immigration foes.
The real feeling of the foes of illegal immigration is that the elites are scoffing at the will of the public and calling them racists -- vicious slander! -- and that those for whom they were willing to show pity and mercy have in return shown them discourtesy and presumption.
Mad about it? You bet.
Stick To The Script
We Americans are a famously hospitable people. "Give us your poor, your tired, your huddled masses," we say, and (please pardon the stereotype, but you know there's some truth in it) five Mexican landscapers at the end of a work day, all crammed in the cab of a pickup truck, certainly qualify. We want to welcome these folks! But we want them to arrive legally as, say, the Irish did, perhaps endure some early hardships (as the Irish did), put up graciously with the prejudices of the uncouth when necessary (as the Irish did), and eventually rise to become, at the second and third generation, part of the glue that holds America together (as the Irish did). Or, fill in "Poles" or "Swedes" or whomever in place of Irish. No matter the country-of-origin, it's the quintessential American story. We love seeing it repeated; it validates what we believe about ourselves.
But notice that the host and the guest both have roles to play in that story. Both sides must follow the script. Nowhere do we see the immigrant group using the greed of City Hall and Wall Street to override the will of the people. Nowhere do we see the immigrant group using identity politics and manufactured grievances to stage a media-managed coup.
When the guest goes off-script in this way, expect the host to do likewise. When the storied hospitality of America is so abused as it has been on this topic, it is only to be expected that we roll up the welcome mat, for a time.
Perhaps when we are no longer spit upon, by our elites or our guests, we'll feel better about putting it out again.