by Kenneth Rudich (author’s note: I sometimes take a time out to write a commentary. This is one of those timeouts.)
An old saying claims there are three sides to every disagreement: his, hers, and the truth.
The saga in Arizona over the recent signing of a new immigration law fits into the three-sided category.
Unlike the seemingly spontaneous eruption represented in the media, the angst over illegal immigration in Arizona has been boiling for a long time, and it had been simmering for quite a while before even that.
We know two sides of the argument, but the third has yet to be adequately told.
the immigration law protest side
The signing of the new immigration law has wrought apprehensions about giving police a nod of approval to engage in racial prejudice and profiling based on the color of someone’s skin. This wouldn’t be so bad, really, if skin color automatically and definitively equated into illegal immigrant status. But it does not, nor should it.
Legal citizens of color, those who pay taxes and contribute to the good of the community, are vulnerable under the law to the insult and humiliation of having to prove their legal status, possibly on a recurring basis. This is, without doubt, a substantial and legitimate concern. To be sure, it threatens an injustice of some significant magnitude.
Apart from that, there also is an argument that favors the idea of welcoming the illegal immigrants. After all, they often take jobs with harsh working conditions, low pay, and little, if any, gratification. These are jobs most native citizens decline to do. Moreover, the fact that the work is done at a lower cost for the producer often translates into lower prices for consumers at places like the grocery store.
These same illegal aliens contribute to social security with slim hope of ever receiving a benefit back. They get to work – and pay into it – because they often have fake social security cards. But they can’t seek anything in return without risking deportation. Some estimate that the federal government’s so-called suspense file, where unclaimed funds like these are kept, is growing by upwards of $50 billion a year. Officials are unclear exactly how much of this comes from illegal immigrants, but they suspect it’s a sizable portion.
Then there are those who roil over the question of why the government doesn’t do more to target the employers that hire illegal immigrants. Aren’t they the kindling that fuels the fire?
Finally, there is confusion over what the new law will actually accomplish. One estimate puts the cost of successfully deporting a quarter of Arizona’s illegal immigrants at a whopping $11.5 billion. So few for so much is a good deal? For a state already suffocating under an abysmal amount of debt, no less?
the immigration law advocate side
While recently visiting “The Tonight Show,” California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger declared he would never support such a law in his state. The Mayor of San Francisco, meanwhile, has curtailed city supported travel to Arizona. On the surface, these public displays resemble earnest actions born of noble sensibilities.
Except each politician conveniently neglected to mention that, since the federal government tightened up the California border fifteen years ago, Arizona has become a major conduit to the U.S., with almost 700,000 people caught in the last two and a half years alone. The considerable relief California has gotten from shifting the problem onto Arizona puts their thinly disguised benevolence in a new light, making it suspect as the product of a blatant ulterior motive.
According to Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) databases, there are roughly 460,000 illegal immigrants in Arizona. Sixty-five percent of illegal aliens are from Mexico and twenty percent are from Central/South America. There are 6.5 million total residents in the state, and 28.8% are Latino. One out of thirteen residents qualifies as an illegal alien, and one out of five Latinos is illegal. At what point does basic statistical trend detection become racial profiling?
And before you start showering Arizona with your utmost incredulity and disdain, also know this. Many of its legal citizens perceive the illegal immigration problem as growing not by incremental stages, but by exponential leaps and bounds; and, for more than a decade, they’ve been watching it suck the marrow out of the state’s infrastructural bones.
Where does that perception derive from, you ask? The answer is daily observation.
Hospital emergency rooms are visibly choked to the point of overflowing with people who legally must be treated, though they have no way of footing the bill. The estimated percentage of illegal immigrants who fit into this category can range as high as 25% of the uncompensated care.
And this does not even address related costs like emergency transportation or other support services. Nor does it factor in the idea that legal citizens can find themselves waiting longer for emergency care because of it.
The public school system has felt the weight of the onslaught. Children of illegal immigrants that attend school take up much needed space and consume already scarce resources that come from citizen paid tax dollars. If they have remedial needs, the burden runs higher yet. Then there are the children who don’t attend school. It stretches the imagination to suggest they are making constructive use of their time out on the streets.
Though illegal immigrants are in fact disqualified from getting many social services, know that their children, the ones born in the U.S., do qualify for those services. Food stamps are but one example.
And then there is the issue of crime. Does anyone really need to say more about that?
In light of all this, why would taxpayers be content to let so much misappropriation of public funding continue to go on? Far from adding a wholesome form of nourishment, illegal immigration has been crippling quality of life and eroding communities throughout Arizona.
then there’s the third side
The unfortunate thing is that the current focus on the new law, and the subsequent protests against it, are at the exhaust end of the problem, what’s coming out of the tailpipe rather than what’s going on in the engine. Not unlike the shoreline of Louisiana, Arizona has a foreign substance gumming up its engine. And that, as it turns out, leads to the greatest injustice of all.
If you dig down through the several layers of groups being adversely affected by it, you’ll find good, honest, hard-working, legal citizens stuck at the bottom. Upwards of 6 million strong, they have nothing to do with the cause of the problem, but yet they still bear the full force of effect. And if you look real close, you’ll discover they come in all colors, shapes, sizes, and backgrounds.
For them, it’s a no-win situation. They are the innocent victims of new laws, of angry protests, of hastily called boycotts, frankly, of it all.
And that’s the unvarnished truth.