We Want You…. OUT!

Angry protesters rallied last Monday in every corner of America to denounce the United State’s immigration policy. These protests, led by primarily Latinos (although many other ethnic groups were involved), were an organized response to a bill recently passed in the House of Representatives that would tighten border security in a number of ways, including provisions that make illegal immigration a felony, penalize businesses that employ illegal immigrants and quicken the deportation process of immigrants currently residing in the US. Fueling the fire of the protesters was a bill struck down in the Senate that would have granted citizenship to many immigrants who are currently illegal.

With congressional elections weighing heavily on the minds of politicians, underestimating the political clout of an interest group such as Latinos (the largest minority in the US) could prove devastating to many reelection campaigns. Currently, less than half of the eligible Latino population shows up to the polls regularly. The immigration policy has mobilized an essentially dormant portion of the polis against the government, as is apparent from the size and sheer number of protests. If Latinos are willing to protest this policy, they will certainly come out to the polls in mass numbers to elect representatives who value them as constituents.

A Marine living in Houston returned from Iraq to his illegal immigrant parents and said of the protests: “I have fought for freedom overseas. Now I am fighting for freedom here.” The powers that be are ready to extricate innocent, contributing members of society from the United States on the grounds that the manner in which they first entered the country was technically not legal. For a nation controlled by the descendents of immigrants who violently eradicated the natives they displaced, the US is very hostile toward Latino immigrants who are a group that clearly does not intend to violently displace them. For the most part, the new immigration policy will displace people who have a better life in the US, and who are not security risks.

It is understandable to be weary of immigration following the September 11th attacks, which were led by terrorists who initially entered the country in ways similar to Latinos today. It is equally understandable for politicians to be concerned for the jobs of their constituents, especially with today’s trend of job outsourcing from the US. But to uproot the estimated eleven million immigrants in the US, many of whom have lived in America for years now, would be both inconsistent with the principles upon which the US was founded as well as insensitive to the merit of the majority of immigrants effected by the policy.

The lack of empathy for illegal immigrants, who are still under-paid and over-worked, is a primary example of politicians prioritizing their own reelection campaigns over the welfare of innocent, hard-working immigrants who are both willing and able to become citizens of the United States. Fortunately, conservatives in Congress have put themselves in a double-bind on a crucial issue only a few months before elections. On the one hand if Congress continues to back this policy, members risk alienating the Latino population that has been politically activated in response to tightening the borders. On top of that, large corporations that use cheap immigrant labor will favor a loose immigration policy, so as not to deplete their cheap supply. On the other hand, relaxing the border restrictions will alienate voters who fear that immigrants will just continue to take their jobs.

As long as Congress keeps talking, they will keep talking themselves out of votes. Despite the fact that I, personally, will love watching the fork-tongues on Capitol Hill try to slither their way out of this quagmire over the next few months, the continued prosperity and freedom of nearly eleven million people, as well as the image of America as the land of opportunity rests on its immigration policy.