To listen to the bleatings of Fox News, Glenn Beck, and Rush Limbaugh, you would think that President Barack Obama is willfully refusing to enforce the nation’s immigration laws. But there are a record 20,000 border guards actively pursuing illegals on our borders at this moment, 1,200 U.S. troops are deploying to assist, many in Arizona, and record numbers of illegals are being deported. But all this misses the fundamental human rights issue presented to us by our immigration woes. Native-born Americans do not see the children separated from a parent, or experience the fear of discovery that is ever-present with undocumented workers. Undocumented workers are commonly exploited in their labors because employers, themselves breaking the law, know that the undocumented illegals they like to hire would risk deportation if they complained about their working conditions to anybody. This is a human problem. Real people and their lives are involved. With the rising tide of nativism in the United States, largely brought on by the troubled economy, Americans need someone to blame for their troubles. Enter the illegal and the undocumented. The fact that many of these people are not majority Caucasians is also a major factor. I would be shocked to learn of two Swedish born men from the Twin Cities being arrested in Phoenix and deported.
Then there is the gross misunderstanding of the United States Constitution that runs rampant among, unfortunately, people with conservative leanings. There is talk of devolution (states’ rights) and secession abroad in the land. First of all, the Constitution gives the power over immigration regulation to the national or Federal government and not the states. It is not left to the states under the Tenth Amendment. It is specifically prohibited to them. Arizona has no business acting outside Federal authority on this matter. She can still arrest and prevent outright criminal activity by any citizen or non-citizen under state statutes that do not conflict with Federal jurisdiction. That is why Federal District Judge Susan Bolton issued her injunction. Immigration enforcement is a Federal matter. The Supremacy Clause in Article VI, Section 2 of the Constitution makes Federal law the supreme law of the land. States cannot supersede Federal authority. Secession too has been defeated in a great Civil War where 620.000 citizens died. The United States must not be reduced to a squabbling bunch of states and sections. The Congress has refused to pass any legislation for the President to sign reforming our immigration system. President Obama has called for Federal action on a new immigration reform law. He is not getting that action. And then there is the very disturbing precedent set by the Arizona immigration statute. It requires police to check the papers of anyone suspected of a crime. Do we want to go down a path where even long-established American citizens have to go through police checkpoints where their papers are checked and they risk time spent in jail if they forget to have them? Do we want some sort of police state in America? These are questions opponents of immigration have failed to address adequately. Yes, we need a new immigration law. We need to continue to strengthen our border enforcement. But we must take count of the human cost of what we do.
Even illegal immigrants are human beings. They have the same hopes and aspirations as any other person. Many faiths, including America’s dominant Christianity, contain within them and their holy books admonitions to welcome the stranger, not to turn him away. It is a command of God. How many of us are being true to that command? For those of us of no particular religion, we too have a sense of ethics. We know when we have done an injustice. Let us welcome the stranger, make him an American citizen, give those people the responsibilities of citizenship that all of us claim to meet and let us make our nation even stronger for it. Let us not respond in fear to people who do not speak like we do or whose skin color or appearance may be foreign to us. Let us welcome the strangers amongst us. Give them a place at the American table.