Friday, April 7, 2006

The Flow of Charles Krauthammer’s River

CharleskrauthammerCharles Krauthammer, the Washington Post’s conservative columnist, wrote a column today that proposes “First a wall, Then amnesty” on the hot-button topic of immigration. I rather like Charlie’s positions, because he’s thoughtful rather than dogmatic, but I have a problem, a major problem, with walling off Mexico.


Fortunately, the Congress left Washington for their two-week spring break, without passing any legislation. Coincidentally, my access to the Internet went down for six hours this afternoon, forcing me to go on a long dog-walk break without commenting on Charlie's column.


Sometimes a break is what we all need.


InternmentjapamerIf we can strike the fear-basis from all this well meant bickering about immigration policy, it would help. We’re not at our best as a nation when we’re afraid. Interning Japanese-Americans during WWII, setting strikebreakers against working men and women, lynch-mobs and race-riots are all excesses we’ve come to regret in calmer times. And every single one of them was born of fear.


Charlie hypothesizes as follows:


". . .  there is a silver bullet that would not just solve the problem but also create a national consensus behind it.


"My proposition is this: A vast number of Americans who oppose legalization and fear new waves of immigration would change their minds if we could radically reduce new -- i.e., future -- illegal immigration.


"Forget employer sanctions. Build a barrier. It is simply ridiculous to say it cannot be done. If one fence won't do it, then build a second 100 yards behind it. And then build a road for patrols in between. Put in cameras. Put in sensors. Put out lots of patrols."






Well Charles, not along the southern border of my country, thank you.


We share two borders, with Canada and Mexico and one could hardly range the world of nations and find better neighbors. To build fences, running patrols (lots of patrols) in between, is not my idea of being a neighbor. Patrols are not benign, Charles. What are we prepared to do, run these people we find between the fences down, tackle them, pull them screaming off the fences? Rough them up so they don’t come back? Don't try to sell me that your proposition is no different than the picket fence in front of my house.


BerlinwallIt was you, not me Charles, who asked this wall not be compared to the Berlin Wall. You're a little touchy on that subject. You make a singular distinction between keeping people in and keeping them out, but it’s still keeping them from going where they can make a living and hope to raise their children in something better than rags.


The same hope your and my immigrant ancestors had.


There are 34 million total individuals in the labor force of Mexico. Total. If every single one of them came here we could absorb them. But of course they won’t.


If Mexican workers are freely allowed to pass back and forth with passports and green cards, the hysteria will level and life will become more normal along the border. Both countries can work at a mutual improvement of employment. The net result will be a lowering of immigration within a relatively short period of time.


You make an interesting analogy, Charles and it struck a chord.


"We already have a river of people coming every day knowing they're going to be illegal and perhaps even exploited. They come nonetheless."




MexicanworkerA river of people. Rivers generally run to the sea and, where they do, there is a mix of salt and fresh water. Rivers do not become salty by their connection to the sea. Seas come and go in rivers depending on the tides and season, but rivers always stay fresh and seas salty. No one fences or walls or levees them against one another.


We can control our immigration with countries that do not border us. We are after all, protected by oceans that allow us that freedom. But North America is a continent and thus our borders with our neighbors, Canada and Mexico, are different. A mere hundred sixty years ago it was our ‘manifest destiny’ to enlarge our country by 1.2 million square miles at the expense of Mexico.


Manifest destiny,

“the 19th-century doctrine according to which the United States was believed to have the God-given right to expand into and possess the whole of the North American continent.”

Somehow God stopped short of encouraging our taking Canada and the entirety of Mexico.


Let the rivers mix with the sea, Charles.
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See Taking My Country Personally on my personal web site.