Friday, June 15, 2012

Good Fences Make Good Neighbors

I've seen more than a few folks arguing on behalf of the latest administrative end-run around the Constitution, in which "innocent children" of illegal aliens (no, the parents are not immigrants unless they genuinely intend to become citizens by way of law) are offered some sort of amnesty they call "not amnesty".

I'm not in the mood, right now, to go on a tear about the legality of the Executive bypass of Congress, a slap in the face to Constitutional law, though.  I want to go back to the ridiculous notion that we should open our borders and let anybody in who wants to come.  National security issues notwithstanding, that's still a silly plan.

The biggest argument in favor of the president's fiat (after the "it's not amnesty, it's human decency" fiction) is that, 'way back when, we didn't have such strict immigration limits.  "This is a modern construct of law," one fellow commented.

True, America had a much more open policy toward immigration in, say, 1820.  There were a few good reasons for that: (1) the country was largely uninhabited, even by the indigenous tribes.  There was plenty of room for expansion, and the New World's frontier served as a nice release valve for troubled lands across both oceans,  and (2) transportation from there to here was much slower and more difficult than it is today.

The latter may not seem like a major issue, but when you consider that it took about two weeks just to cross the Atlantic Ocean in the first half of the nineteenth century, and then you had to add that to whatever amount of time it took to cross the home country (or countries) to board a tiny, cramped, stench-and-disease-ridden boat to get you here, it was, as our vice president once said, a "big f***ing deal."

It took a lot more courage to head out to a land nobody knew, in hopes of starting a new life with no safety nets of family, friends, church, or community (if you were settling the frontier), knowing you were going to be on a dirt trail -- at best -- until you reached your undefined destination.

Today, you can book a flight from almost any city in the world and be here in less than half a day.   From that point, papers may be presented, and you are in --  to stay, even without long-term permission, if you're inclined to take a (not terribly slim) chance that ICE is understaffed, under-supported, and likely to let you get away with a cheat.   If you don't want to go through proper channels at all, you can still find a car, bus, or truck to hide in, and be here from some point beyond the border in short order.  Of course, there are those who walk across the borders (theirs is the old-fashioned approach to lawbreaking), but then, in the nineteenth century, ranchers pretty much felt free to shoot trespassers on sight, so, again, the modern illegals have an advantage over the border-hoppers of yore, today's drug cartels notwithstanding.  (Not to mention, when you do get here, there's a whole mess of safety nets to make you more comfortable than you could possibly imagine, two centuries ago. The whole thing is so very slick, today.)

In other words, yes, we do have stricter immigration policies in the twenty-first century than we had in the first half of our nation's history.  We also have stricter policies against owning other people, on barring women and minorities from voting and owning property, and a whole host of other issues they scarcely even considered, when the Founding Fathers built this Republic.

But the one thing Washington, Jefferson, Adams, Madison, et al. gave us that we still may demand, the thing that should continue to be ours by right as Americans, is sovereignty.  It stands at the very heart of our identity.  Because we are already largely a nation of immigrants,  heretofore undefined by millennia of regional tribal division, we should continue always to stand for the law of this land which makes us all equal, and by that law be allowed to define (a)what it is to be an American, and (b) what rules must be followed in order to become one of us.  Or, if you wish: we built the clubhouse, so we should decide what it takes for you to join us -- and we decided the first rule for membership is respect for our laws.

If our current occupants and staff of the White House can not comprehend this basic facet of American Exceptionalism, if their supporters think political expediency masked as compassion is reasonable action, we need to reeducate them.

Borders were established for a reason.  They are defended for a myriad of reasons.  Borders, and the laws which continue to support them, are neglected at everyone's peril.

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