It’s the Economy, Stupid: The Hijacking of the Debate Over Immigration Reform by Monsters, Ghosts, and Goblins (or the War on Drugs, War on Terror, Narcoterrorists, Etc.)
29 Pages Posted: 10 Feb 2010
Date Written: February 9, 2010
This is a contribution to a symposium at Chapman University Law School in January 2010 that will be published in a symposium issue of the Chapman Law Review. Part I of this Essay will attempt to debunk the frequently-made, but never persuasively argued, charge that U.S. immigration law and enforcement is central to the so-called “war on drugs” as well as the “war on terror.” At most, immigration has a very limited role to play in those two metaphorical “wars.” Rather, the berating of immigrants and immigration for everything wrong with America in those (and many other) contexts is nothing more than a smokescreen to hide the true political ends of the speaker. The real hope and intent of many of the users of inflammatory rhetoric is to bring more political heat to bear on immigration and to promote a particular restrictionist political agenda. Immigrants are people who many love to hate and if you add their so-called involvement to drugs, crime generally, or terrorism, then you have the perfect enemy, the most unpopular of the unpopular. Part II of this Essay discusses how most immigration is connected directly or indirectly to labor migration of individuals and families and the relative economic opportunity in the United States, with family reunification a secondary (and often related) major motivating factor for the movement of people across national borders. There indeed are some legitimate issues to discuss concerning the labor aspects of immigration, including the class, economic, and general social consequences of the migration of workers to the United States. A true dialogue about immigration must be open, honest, transparent, and above-board. If, for example, one is concerned with the racial, ethnic, and cultural composition of the immigrants to the United States, we should talk about that, rather than make a blanket claim that one is not racist in seeking to change the racial mix of the immigrant stream but simply is “anti-illegal immigrant.” A rational discussion of immigration would go a long way toward making sensible reform in the realm of possibility.
Keywords: immigration, immigration policy, economy, immigration reform
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