Friday, July 01, 2005

No Person Is Illegal

"You shall know that no one is illegal. It is a contradiction in
itself. People can be beautiful or even more beautiful. They may be just or
unjust. But illegal? How can someone be illegal?" -- Elie Wiesel

I’m sick of Mark Hyman’s commentaries on immigration. I’m sick not simply because it’s a topic he returns to with disturbing frequency; I’m sick because I feel I need to take a shower after I read his comments. I’m sick of the race baiting. I’m sick of the attempts to scare his audience. I’m sick of being exposed to the contempt Hyman has for his fellow human beings.

As we’ve noted many, many times in the past, immigration is one of the only issues on which Hyman directly attacks the Bush administration. For him, Bush is not tough enough. As we’ve also noted many, many times, Hyman’s feelings on this issue are typified by his infamous equation of undocumented immigrants to al-Qaeda terrorists.

Hyman’s latest comments draw on statistics from a recent study done by the Pew Hispanic Center, which offers estimates of the number of immigrants, both documented and undocumented, from Mexico in the U.S. currently, and projects the future population of immigrants based on current trends.

After pointing out that more immigrants from Mexico are undocumented than are documented, Hyman drops what he assumes is a bombshell statistic: 1 in 7 people born in Mexico will be living in the U.S. by the year 2050. He even makes a production out of repeating this statistic for his audience to let it sink in.

The funny thing is that nowhere in the commentary does Hyman say why this is bad. There isn’t any claim made that this influx of immigrants will bankrupt the country, drive up taxes, increase poverty, or make for scarcer jobs. It’s simply laid out as something so obviously awful that no explanation is needed.

This is particularly grotesque given the way Hyman vacillates between talking about undocumented immigrants and documented immigrants. It’s clear that Hyman’s problem isn’t with undocumented immigrants; it’s with immigrants, period (at least those from Mexico). His bombshell stat doesn’t describe the number of undocumented immigrants coming to America; it’s simply a statement about the number of native Mexicans living in the U.S.

This is the definition of xenophobia. It’s not that these immigrants will cause a specific problem in the United States. To the contrary, the study Hyman cites for his numbers on undocumented immigration points out that the employment rate for Hispanic immigrants is high (92% of undocumented male immigrants are part of the workforce). A quarter of undocumented immigrants have at least some college education. Most have at least a high school education and the majority have families. In fact, undocumented immigrants come to the U.S. because they want to work hard and provide a better life for their children. Conservatives once touted these as admirable qualities that we needed more of in society (and
some still do.)

Hyman, however, chooses to leave these stereotype-busting facts out of his commentary because, to him, they don’t matter. The problem is not what these immigrants do or how they get here; it’s simply that they are here, in “our” country.

Hyman ends his screed with the rhetorical question, “Is it any wonder why the group of citizens who call themselves Minutemen and who are patrolling our southern borders are doing what they are doing?”

Again, Hyman asks the question as if the answer is obvious, and for a certain segment of his audience, it probably is. The answer is based on prejudices so vile that Hyman can’t bring himself to lay them out in the light of day, so he simply suggests them passively, inviting us as his audience to fill in the void with what the worst angels of our nature whisper in our ear.

Let us listen to our better angels.

And that’s The Counterpoint.


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