Okay, class, settle down. Today’s subject is immigration. Oy vey, yelp my non-Jewish readers (who are comfortable using Yiddish colloquialisms.) Goodness gracious, groan my Jewish readers (too self-conscious to employ Yiddish expressions.) Not that again?! Haven’t we discovered and covered that enough? Must we recover this subject? Can’t we recover from this?
The answer is yes we must, no we can’t. We don’t need to beat a dead horse but in politics it never hurts to keep beating a horse that looks moribund — until the coroner declares it officially deceased. To make our point, let us begin with our favorite immigrants as children, the friendly Italian shoemakers who were posted in storefronts at two-block intervals all around the Brooklyn of our youth.
The old joke went that a man pulled his wedding tux from the closet after 30 years, pleased to find it would still fit him perfectly for his daughter’s upcoming nuptials. He sticks his hand into the pocket and pulls out a colorful piece of stiff cardboard. It is his tag from the shoe store. He had snagged the heel of his wedding shoes dancing and brought them to the shoe repair guy that same day. They had lain there forgotten for three decades. He drives back to the old neighborhood and sure enough, the guy is still there, wizened and stooped. He takes the tag, goes into the back, then returns empty-handed with a terse message.
“They’ll be ready tomorrow.”
Politicians practice a variation on this theme. When something they propose draws constituent ire, they stall it or withdraw it until such time as the clamor dissipates. Once people have spent their passion, the pols can jump in and spend their money. This happens with regularity at the school board and town council level. In Cincinnati, for example, a levy to raise two hundred million dollars to build a new jail was defeated last year. This year the initiative is back, now puffed up to seven hundred million.
But even in a fishbowl like Washington, with all its relentless media scrutiny, this is often accomplished successfully. As the old saw goes: “If you don’t let them through the front door, they will come sneaking in the back door.” One day when the country has its attention focused elsewhere, dealing with a hurricane or something, the bill may waft its way over the transom.
While it is true the initial outraged response to this immigration bill (in its second coming, don’t forget, it first visited in mid-2006) has representatives reeling, any letup in the indignation will provide an opening. Remember, if it gets to the President’s desk, he will sign it proudly. The only winnable front, the last line of defense, is in the Congress. Making noise only gives a bill a headache; it takes an incessant cacophony, a farrago of flak, a fanfaronade of feedback, to make it explode irreparably.
Even while the bill is tabled, or off the table, the scurrilous attacks against its detractors will continue apace. We will hear all day everyday that only people of utter ill will could conceivably oppose this panacea. Anti-amnesty types are people with no forgiveness in their hearts, with no compassion for the stricken and the battered. Like the other classic joke about the Jewish immigrant with the heavy accent who complains he is being rebuffed in efforts to be hired as a radio announcer. To what does he attribute his failure? “It’s those anti-Semites!”
That charge won’t stick against my position. I have been campaigning in at least four years of articles for the policy toward Haitian immigrants to be changed; they should be treated like Cubans and given preferential treatment. Citizens of a neighboring country with a broken system of government (no, Mexico is not in that category) should get better treatment from the United States. Legal immigration should be more efficient and our populace must always remain open-hearted in helping new arrivals to learn the language and acclimate.
That being said, common sense must govern in setting rules and quotas for entry but beyond that the rule of law must be next-to-sacrosanct. With rare exceptions for obvious anomalies and unintended injustices, the system should be run well and honestly. It is that law which provides the shield those immigrants seek from the harshly avenging and scavenging forces loose in the Third World. Making that law into a mockery threatens us with the anarchic fate they are so bent on escaping. This is why the class reviewed this subject today. Now let’s do our homework.