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Thursday, June 29, 2006
The laziest and weakest argument in the illegal immigration debate is "What part of illegal don’t you understand?" There’s nothing about the word illegal that anyone doesn't understand, but the question is the refuge of slackers who are ill-prepared to argue the substantive issues: economics; culture; security and more. Consider three separate debates: Speeding; marijuana and illegal immigrants. In Texas, the highway department found that 85 percent of the people on an open stretch of Interstate highway acted illegally by traveling an average of 76 miles an hour, instead of the posted speed limit – 70. They decided to raise the speed limit to 80. In most states, on most Interstate highways, the majority of people violate the law. Some argue that the law is too restrictive. Others reason that the law should be obeyed and enforced to save lives. Those who like to argue but have no point simply say that enforcement should be increased because too many people are violating the law. How profound! An estimated 70 million Americans illegally possess and smoke marijuana. In the ongoing debate over decriminalization, some folks argue that marijuana is no worse than other intoxicating substances like beer, wine and liquor, and should not be illegal. Others counter that marijuana should remain illegal and violators should be arrested because the only purpose of marijuana is to become intoxicated, that its use generally leads to more dangerous drugs, and that illegal drug use propagates violent crime. The intellectually challenged insist that marijuana laws should be strictly enforced because it’s illegal to smoke marijuana. The debate, of course, is whether marijuana SHOULD be illegal, not whether it IS illegal. Now comes the big national argument about illegal immigrants. Most everyone agrees there are some 11 to 12 million illegal immigrants in the country, and that poses a problem. But there's a lack of agreement on the nature of the problem. President Bush, Sen. Lindsey Graham and I believe that while the law breaking and problems should be addressed, the illegal immigrants are, by and large, making a contribution to our economy and we need to find a way to preserve the contribution, even as we deal with the lawbreaking and other problems. Others argue either that the illegal immigrants are harming the economy by driving down wages and taking jobs from Americans, or that any contribution they make is eclipsed by the problems they create -- over-taxing social services and/or corrupting a common American culture. The lazy among us just repeat, "What part of illegal don’t you understand." Unfortunately, that third voice frequently drowns out (or shouts down) the more substantive debate. "What part of illegal don’t you understand?" is a stupid question that doesn’t deserve an answer, but I'll answer it anyway. Many things that were once illegal are now legal because we came to believe that the prohibition was not serving us well. Violating a law is rarely if ever a serious problem, in and of itself. The action, which is against the law, is the problem. It is against the law because it's a problem. It’s not a problem because it's against the law. If reasonable people decide something is not a problem, they change the law, as the legislators did in Texas with regard to the speed limit. In order to facilitate continued economic growth, the United States must have immigrant workers. We will likely need even more in the future. We simply don't have enough indigenous population growth to sustain a growing economy. Today, too many of those immigrant workers are here illegally. It does not violate a general respect for the law to simultaneously change the immigration law and allow some people to make a transition from violator to legal worker, providing there is a reasonable consequence for the original violation. There is an important, substantive disagreement about whether the workers are needed, and if so, what is the best way to accommodate the need. There is also a legitimate concern about whether contemporary immigrants, mostly from Mexico, will live up to the legacy of those who came before them; a legacy that produced one nation with different backgrounds but common loyalties and values.
posted by Jack Mercer @ 6/29/2006 09:17:00 AM  
  • At 6/29/2006 03:34:00 PM, Blogger Helen Losse said…

    Hi Jack,
    Of course, the real question has to do with whether or not the law should be changed, but to tie this decision to economics places a measurable value on something immeasurable and invaluable; namely, human life. It is the same logic that makes people oppose abortion but favor war and the death penalty, only here usefulness, there innocence. And I, of course, being the person I am, don’t buy it.

    BTW, I like the look you have on your blog now. It's easier to read.

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"Snipet" (pronounced: snipe - it) is not a word.It is a derivative of two words: "Snipe" and "Snippet".

Miriam Webster defines Snipe as: to aim a carping or snide attack, or: to shoot at exposed individuals (as of an enemy's forces) from a usually concealed point of vantage.

Miriam Webster defines Snippet as: : a small part, piece, or thing; especially : a brief quotable passage.

In short, "Snipets" are brief, snide shots at exposed situations from a concealed vantage point.

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