There’s always something going on in your nation’s capital.
This week’s big show is in the Senate Judiciary Committee where they are processing Comprehensive Immigration Reform. This is enormously important legislation and there appears to be reasonably positive progress — assuming one is willing to endure some shocking attitudes about immigrants as the price for a path to citizenship.
There are, however, a couple of little sidelights that I would like to have some fun with because they seem to be so absurd. Both have to do with the conservative demand that there be “security” before we regularize the status of the undocumented. This “security” issue takes two forms: locking down the Southern border and requiring that all employers use a system called E Verify.
I have a vision of Ronald Reagan, standing on the Mexican side of this truly stupid wall his fellow conservatives want so badly, and saying “Mr. Obama, tear down this wall!”
Let’s take a peek at the E Verify system first.
This is a national computer system begun a decade ago as the anti-immigrant mania began to grip the xenophobes. It is designed to let an employer go on-line and check to see that a prospective employee has documents. It is a voluntary program and as of January 2013 only about 10% of employers used it. The system tends to send more legal workers and other Americans into jobless limbo rather actually identifying undocumented immigrants. 30 times more often according to the data.
The “security” advocates are intent on making it totally mandatory.
What I find ironical here is that we seem to be on the verge of regularizing the status of some 11 million folks. They will be eligible to work legally. What purpose then will the imposition of this E Verify system serve for American and legal workers?
We are about to spend a gazillion dollars to build a system that we will no longer need. We will impose costs, delays, red tape, and mistakes on a bunch of small businesses and their prospective employees for no other purpose than to satisfy the political vanity of conservative politicians who every day in other contexts rail against useless government spending and the imposition of burdens on small businesses.
The E Verify campaign is laughable.
But the other irony, the “security” of the border, has deeply sinister implications.
Be clear, this is the border with Mexico, not the border with Canada. We have to make the border with Mexico “secure” even though the only terrorist plot that came to us by land entered through Canada and was aimed at the Seattle Space Needle.
The focus on the Mexican border is a racist perspective. I know very well that Mexicans, Costa Ricans, Hondurans and Colombians are not a race. But the anti-immigration xenophobes seem not to know that and give their campaign all the vitriol, ignorance and hyperbole that were once reserved for other races.
The xenophobic hysterics act as though the Northern Europeans were here first. If this point actually has a purpose, it is useful to observe that I have been to the oldest building in the country. It is in Santa Fe and it was built by folks from Mexico. The oldest Catholic Church is also there.
And even this point ignores the indigenous Americans who preceded all the Europeans.
The culture of the South Western United States is intertwined with our neighbors to the South, and will always be intertwined. Insisting that we build a border between them and us is racism pure and simple. Instead of building a wall, we should be bonded together in a celebration of a rich and wonderful heritage.
Over the great reach of history this border will dissolve. The wonders of culture, beauties of language, and joys of diversity will melt it away. Family love will wipe it away. The barriers and the fence will rot, just as the Berlin Wall rotted away.
I have a vision of Ronald Reagan, who supported immigration reform, standing on the Mexican side of this truly stupid wall his fellow conservatives want so badly, and saying “Mr. Obama, tear down this wall!”
Racism is the only reason we are facing the enormous expense of E Verify and the walling of the border with Mexico. We should not do this to ourselves.