Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Brown, Arizona, and Immigration

Gordon Brown is not suited for the modern political campaign. He recognizes this and anyone who watched the debates recognize this. But his recent gaff, and the appearances he made immediately after it, makes me think Brown doesn’t know what era he is trying to get elected in. From the Independent:
Gordon Brown described himself as a "penitent sinner" today after personally apologizing to a voter he described as a "bigoted woman".

The Prime Minister had described Mrs Duffy as a "bigoted woman" in unguarded comments to an aide after she had tackled him on immigration, benefits, the national debt and tax policy.

Mr Brown was still wearing a radio microphone as he got into his car following a campaign visit in Rochdale.”
Amazingly stupid. Brown has stated that he had misheard the woman’s comments, resulting in him calling her a bigot. I don’t know if that is true or not, but it sounds like a feeble dodge to me, and exposes a major problem in how liberals and the left frame immigration.

The recent Arizona immigration ruling, that makes illegal immigration a State as well as federal crime, allows the police to ask for any individual’s identification papers if they have “reasonable suspicion” that the individual is in the U.S. illegally. John Judis at the New Republic had this to say about it:
“The bill is ostensibly aimed at discouraging illegal immigrants from staying in Arizona, but it would also affect Arizona’s Latino citizens and probably, too, its Native Americans, who would be subject to arrest if they fail to allay a policeman’s suspicion that they are in the country illegally. Los Angeles Archbishop Roger Mahony called the bill “the country's most retrogressive, mean-spirited and useless anti-immigrant law.” Mahoney also questioned whether Arizonans are “now reverting to German Nazi and Russian Communist techniques.” That is, perhaps, rhetorical overkill, but there is a disturbing echo here of the worst periods in American and European history.”


The law is undoubtedly dim, and some unsavory individuals have contributed to its disposition. Police officers have enough on their hands dealing with serious crimes to now also act as Border Patrol agents. I can only imagine how uncomfortable it is going to be for Latin Americans living in Arizona, who will be asked to verify their citizenship or residency status anytime a police officer has “reasonable cause.” Some of the rhetoric coming from opponents of the bill, comparing it to fascism is outlandish, but this is surely not the proper legal, moral, or reasonable response to the Southwest’s immigration issues.

But there are negative consequences to the illegal immigration status quo that exists in the United States. It does cost American taxpayers a great deal to have the number of illegal residents we currently have. It also hurts existing blue collar workers, specifically by running their wages down and undermining many of the benefits achieved through decades of struggle.

When leftists, liberals, and Gordon Brown react to workers concerned with their (non-existent) jobs and wages by calling them racists and bigots, it does them no good politically or ideologically. There are benefits economically and culturally to large numbers of foreign born workers living in our societies. I completely reject the cultural arguments made by palecons like Pat Buchannan, who argue that the influx of foreigners is destroying American society. The American nation has always been in flux and is constantly changing demographically, but I do not find that the new batch of immigrants is changing the political or social character of the state detrimentally.

However, the extreme Arizona law is a result of a lack of action taken on immigration issues at the Federal level. When all concerns over illegal immigration are framed as the ravings of racist Klansmen, it does a disservice to rational debate. These more extreme rulings will continue to be supported by people who have faced the negative results of the current immigration system, and it requires internationalists and moderates to face these issues sincerely and pragmatically.

Update:

Concerning the Arizona law, both E.D. Kain and the New Centrist have some fine commentary worth reading.