Tuesday, September 07, 2004

American Dream, Hyman's Nightmare

In his latest "Point," Mark Hyman goes mano-a-mano with President Bush in a race to the moral bottom of immigration politics.

Calling (inaccurately) Bush’s proposed “guest worker” program an “amnesty” for illegal immigrants, Hyman bemoans what this possible influx will do to the U.S.

Bush’s proposal would allow undocumented laborers to continue to work in the U.S. for a period of a few years. The rationale is that they’re already here and they’re cheap labor, so why not use them? Despite Hyman’s protestations, this is not amnesty—rather a stay of execution. After working at the very bottom of the economic ladder (without any rights to organize), foreign workers could be deported. In fact, by registering to be guest workers, undocumented immigrants make it much easier for the government to track them and find them when they’re time in the U.S. has been used up. It’s a crass and misguided attempt to exploit a cheap and vulnerable workforce without giving anything in return. (John Kerry and other Democrats favor a policy that would allow undocumented workers to work toward permanent citizenship as long as they are working or seeking work.)

It's tough to outdo the Bush administration in dehumanizing those who come into the U.S. illegally, but Hyman is up to the challenge. After mischaracterizing the Bush policy by suggesting it’s a way of smoothing the road toward citizenship, Hyman comes up with one of his oddly-worded remarks that betray a disturbing ideology:

There is no doubt the U.S. needs to overhaul its immigration policy. It's
currently like an all-you-can-eat buffet, with various groups scooping generous heapings of foreign immigrants into the U.S. without regard to sound immigration policy. This doesn't even take into account the ease with which illegal aliens cross our borders.

“Various groups”? We wonder what that might mean. To us, it certainly sounds like Hyman is nervous about too many people with darker skin than his coming into the country. “Sound immigration policy” is a thinly veiled assertion that we need to control the number of certain kinds of foreigners coming into the U.S. He won’t say so, of course, but we’ve seen that Hyman isn’t above couching bigotry in vague, hazy language. Add to this the dehumanizing rhetoric (“heapings” of immigrants, comparing human beings to items at a salad bar), and you have a frightening peek into the psyche behind "The Point."

As for the “ease” of getting into the country, we wonder if Hyman has heard of the hundreds of individuals who die every year in the sweltering semi-trailers crossing the border, or who are led out into the wilderness by predatory “guides” and left to die, or simply shot by criminals promising to bring them to the U.S. if they’re willing to hand over all the money they have. They risk these dangers for a simple reason. These people still believe that the U.S. is the land of freedom and opportunity. They believe in the promise that his country offers. And they are willing to work the most menial jobs in order to make a better life for their children.

To George W. Bush, these people are fodder for industry to be used up and disposed of.

To Mark Hyman, they’re a nightmarish horde of people who are different than him.

But they’re both wrong. These people are the embodiment of the American dream.

And that’s the Counterpoint.


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