July 21, 2006

 

In No Uncertain Terms



...I wasn’t sure how—or if—to expand upon the issue of the illegal immigration ordinance in Hazleton, Pennsylvania. I don’t object to anyone, from any country, moving here, there, or anywhere in a pursuit of a better life, as long as it’s done so legally. While I recognize ethnicity, I don’t use it as a determining factor of judging a person’s character or work ethic. Considering the number of white Americans that I’ve lambasted over the last two years, I could probably be called anti-white or anti-American more than anything.
...With that aside, over the last week a few more topics pertaining to the Hazleton story have arisen: six neighboring towns are considering similar ordinances to deter Hazleton’s illegal immigrants from settling there after leaving Hazleton; Governor Ed Rendell, no doubt risking the loss of many union votes in the upcoming election, has made it known that he’s opposed to Mayor Lou Barletta’s new law, calling the crackdown “mean-spirited”; and a local newspaper has called for all enforcement of immigration legislation to come from Washington—not from state or local governments.
...As such, I figured that instead of taking the now-common approach to this debate—where one side says that illegal immigrants need to leave and the other side cries racism—I decided that I would rather focus upon something that might be hindering the entire discussion: We’re disagreeing over the definition of “illegal.”
...Not to become a slave to strict definitions, but it should be noted that the online FindLaw Legal Dictionary offers a rather terse entry for “illegal”: “contrary to or in violation of a law: ‘illicit’ and ‘unlawful.’”
...When we apply such an adjective to the term “immigrant,” we can—or rather, should—see a distinct difference between immigrants—who are legal residents and workers—and illegal immigrants, who are in America without any official documentation or, for lack of a better description, without anyone knowing that they’re here. Analogies to such definition differences include gun possession, whereby illegal possession of a firearm is vastly different from legal possession, and driving a vehicle, whereby people driving with valid drivers’ licenses are vastly different from those who drive with expired or suspended licenses.
...Somewhere along the way some of us have turned “legal” and “illegal” into synonyms. Thus, a heated debate has ensued.
...The editorial staff of the Pennsylvania newspaper The Morning Call has said that “Hazleton’s image has become downright ugly, and the ordinance—not crime—is to blame.” They also took aim at Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli, who is pushing for state legislation to require that Pennsylvania businesses implement an already-existing voluntary federal system which verifies Social Security numbers of prospective employees.
...In their editorial, the paper’s staff provides a reasonable example of what I mean when I submit the possibility of interchangeable definitions. Morganelli was quoted as saying, “The fact of the matter is that their illegal entry automatically leads them to additional illegal and criminal acts, such as the utilization of fraudulent identities and cards,” to which the editorial staff responded with, “Mr. Morganelli's statement reflects an assumption that all illegal immigrants in Northampton County commit crimes.”
...It appears that they’re failing to see that being an illegal immigrant is a crime, simply due to the status of “illegal.” Morganelli evidently is referring to such a status, otherwise he wouldn’t have used the word “additional” in his statement. Furthermore, due to the illegal immigrants’ status as “illegal,” their identification and cards have to be illegal by definition. After all, one cannot be here illegally but have their identification or cards be legal. It’s possible to be here legally with illegal documentation, but to have it the other way around would be contradictory.
...The July 21 editorial concluded:
Far-reaching immigration reform in Washington is preferable to a patchwork of state or local laws, including the one proposed by Mr. Morganelli. It’s better to wait until the federal stalemate is resolved than to rush in with ineffective and polarizing local and state measures.
...That’s nice in theory, but if federal legislation were so efficient, we wouldn’t have reached the point of the Hazleton ordinance in the first place. Besides, patchworks of state and local laws are sometimes necessary; let’s not forget about last year’s Supreme Court ruling in Kelo v. New London, which made the use of eminent domain easier than ever.
...The Kelo ruling inspired many states to toughen their laws pertaining to eminent domain, as property owners across the nation quickly saw increased potential of land confiscation from not only their local school districts, but also from Wal-Mart and developers eager to build an infinite number of strip-malls and townhouses. The Morning Call editorial staff might be opposed to those state laws, too.
...Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell is sticking with the ethnicity card in this fray. He voiced his opposition to Barletta’s new law, calling it “mean-spirited” and said:
“The only ones I want to hear speaking up and complaining about immigration are the Native Americans who we screwed. A lot of this is being pushed by politicians who absolutely want to keep your eyes away from real stuff. They feed off hate and divisiveness.”
...I’ll completely agree that Native Americans were victims of reprehensible acts. I’d go even further and say that two of the biggest black marks on United States history are the treatment of Native Americans and the institution of slavery.
...With that said, does past treatment of Native Americans somehow disqualify us from debating present-day handling of illegal immigrants? I’d argue no, because if we do, we can continually use the Native American argument whenever any immigration issue arises.
...I’d sooner assert that this is Rendell’s spin to cast a negative light on the concept of local control—on anything. It’s no secret that Rendell looks unfavorably upon communities having a say on what they do. In 2004 he said that he’s “not for letting anything be decided by referendum” when asked about the possibility of municipalities having a say over potentially-hazardous sludge being dumped in their backyards.
...Is Rendell correct in suggesting that some of those in support of Barletta’s ordinance are full of hate, divisiveness, and mean-spiritedness? It’s quite possible. Pennsylvania has its fair share of residents whose attitudes might mirror those of the south during the civil rights era. James Carville once said, “Pennsylvania is Philadelphia and Pittsburgh with Alabama in between.” Having lived in Pennsylvania for most of my life, I’d find it difficult to disagree.
...Does this automatically mean that everyone supportive of recognizing the word “illegal” in “illegal immigrant” is mean-spirited or full of hate? I’d adamantly say no. The text of Hazleton’s Illegal Immigration Relief Act Ordinance doesn’t contain anything pertaining to race, ethnicity, Mexico, Hispanics, or the like. Yes, most of the illegal immigrants in Hazleton are from Mexico or Central America, but if the ordinance has the potential of punishing illegal immigrants from Canada, Vietnam, Korea, Russia, et al., it’s difficult to deem the act “racist,” “bigoted,” or anything similar. The definition wouldn’t apply.
...Rendell is not the only one to view the ordinance as having racist intent, however. Ethnic organizations stand by the charges of racism, since the majority of illegal immigrants are Hispanic. The Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund has joined with the Pennsylvania chapter of the ACLU to sue the city on the grounds that “the ordinance erodes the federal government’s power to regulate immigration.”
...Either way, the rhetoric is escalating and becoming coarser. One example, an entry entitled “The First Nazi City in America” by Juan Santos of the Guerrilla News Network, states:
Everyone will have to register their nationality with the government. No one will be exempt. People of certain nationalities will be targeted for removal. Those who look like they might be from those nations will be marked as suspects, constantly subject to harassment, official and unofficial.
[…]
There’s only one thing the “immigration debate” is about: It’s about white nationalism.
[…]
Official Amerika will never admit that the matter of “national origin” and “immigration status” is little more than a thin excuse for ethnic suppression and ethnic cleansing.
...We’ve come a long way from debate class.

3 Comments:

Blogger a.m. said...

Thank you, JP, for your insightful view of this polarizing topic. I honestly couldn't have said it better myself.

July 22, 2006  
Blogger J.P. said...

Thanks. I wasn’t sure if it would be worth taking a different approach to viewing the whole situation, but I’d feel better saying it than keeping it in.

July 22, 2006  
Blogger a.m. said...

Better out than in, I always say.

July 23, 2006  

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