Last year I went to an artsy performance about immigration. It included actors performing monologues about immigrating to the US interspersed with inspiring music pieces. It brought little tears to my eyes as I thought about how my grandfather must have felt coming to the US from Sicily and seeing the Statue of Liberty in New York before he made his way to Chicago.
My grandfather did not know how to read, and spoke only broken English. His prior life had been as a goat-herd in the hills of Sicily and so when he came here, he had few opportunities. Eventually he worked as a gardener and in a factory and worked himself to a heart attack in his 50’s. He raised 10 children in a tiny house in the Chicago Suburbs. Three of his sons became lawyers. Almost every one of his 30+ grandchildren went to college.
He was an anchor baby. Born in the US to immigrant parents, he was a citizen by birth, not by heritage. In fact, his parents returned with him to Sicily soon after he was born. When he came back as a teenager, it was the geography of his birth that gave him entry.
In the 1930’s, with a young wife and family to support and job prospects bleak, he moonshined for Al Capone; a job as reviled in that day as weed dealers today (which is to say that almost everyone had had a drink, but nobody thought they themselves deserved to be in prison for it, and was mostly treated in society with a wink and a nod, unless you got caught selling, in which case you were a monster). (*My grandfather’s history as a moonshiner for Al Capone was the first story my grandmother told to my wife when the met. Good work, Nona!)
In my life when I was a teacher, I had lots of Hispanic students who didn’t give a crap; but I had lots of white students who were the same. I also had lots of super-motivated kids whose legal status you quickly learned not to mention. It would be heartbreaking for America to lose some of those them because of Nativism.
And look, everyone knows that white America makes a distinction between the “right” immigrants and the “wrong” ones. If you want proof, look and see if the Donald wants to build a border across Canada, or wants to put ankle bracelets on people travelling here on visas (visa overstay accounts for up to 50% of illegal immigrants, by some estimates). I come from Chicago, which has its fair share of (especially) Irish and Polish immigrants who are here illegally. I do not see Republicans yelling about them.
One of the differences between conservatives and progressives has to be that conservatives see people as resources of the state and progressives see people as burdens on the state (this belief that the poor are burdens is the fountainhead of the eugenics/planned parenthood movement). Conservatives need to see that immigrants are good for America and that we want as many of them as we can get.
Argument 1: “I just want people to respect the law. The law needs to be respected.” Bullshit. I know this is bullshit because the people who say this also speed, and run stoplights, and jaywalk, and whatever is convenient for them at the time. This argument essentially means “I just want respect for the law unless it’s something that I don’t think should be illegal, in which case I should be allowed to break it. But still no more Mexicans!”
Argument 2: “There are so many people who did it the right way! Everyone should wait their turn.” I have a lot of sympathy for people that have a difficult legal immigration path to the US. The right answer, though, is to admit that we have a bad system and let in more people, and let the people who are here get documentation and stay.
Argument 3: “They need to go back home and then we can admit them legally.” Sure, and when you get stopped for speeding while on the way to work, it’s entirely reasonable that the cop should make you go back home, re-take a driver’s test, and then you can drive to work.
Argument 4: “All they do is take up welfare benefits!” Hell, there are entire parts of the US right now that are like this. What are we going to do, take everyone from Beattyville, KY and deport them? Maybe the problem is that we make it hard for people to get off welfare, and easy for people to go on it. I hear this from family members that work in the health care field that the immigrants they see are lazies who know one word in English: “gimme!”. They then tell me about all the Hispanics who work in the health care field with them. Maybe the “lazy” people would be a little more industrious if we allowed them to get real jobs and not look over their shoulders every second for ICE.
The Republican party during my lifetime has been the party that stood for economic freedom, traditional family values, and Constitutionalism. To hear that party (which rightly reads the very clear “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed”) now second guessing “All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside” as not indicating birthright citizens makes me very, very sad.
There is no real alternative to the Democratic Party (which, you know, is all about slicing through the heads of babies to get at their brains because Science). I would hate for there to be no safe place for people like me to vote.