Wednesday, March 21, 2007

On the "National Security Begins at Home" Bill: Sadistic PA Immigration Reform

I just caught the local news and the big story of "Immigration Reform." Apparently 4 Republican lawmakers unveiled an immigrant reform package entitled "National Security Begins at Home." These bills aim to prevent illegal immigrants from coming to PA by restricting them from almost all social services or privileges. One of the lawmakers in favor of this bill, Rep. Jim Cox, argued that there was noting harsh about this bill, it was quite simply a "strict enforcement of the law." Another Representative, Daryl Metcalfe, argued that illegal immigrants were harming P.A. citizens. The idea is that by allowing illegal immigrants to get health care at our hospitals we are costing PA taxpayers millions of dollars.

I hear these sort of anti-immigration arguments all the time and I generally shake my head and turn the channel. But this new proposed bill really bothers me. The idea that we would simply deny people working and living in our country access to healthcare is unconscionable. And, Rep. Cox's cavalier attitude is downright frightening to me. Who elects these people? What you have here is a distortion of the facts, aimed at startling PA taxpayers enough to support utterly inhumane legislation that further harms immigrants--whether legal or illegal in this country--and fuels racist sentiment.

Every time lawmakers go after illegal immigrants, and especially when they title their attacks "National Security Begins at Home," they are painting a bullseye on any immigrant that lives in PA or elsewhere in the United States. While the lawmakers stated purpose is to prevent illegal immigrants from crossing the borders, the unstated purpose (or to be more charitable, unintended consequence) is to fuel public intolerance to brown people with accents. Whenever you see news stories run about illegal immigration, you never see a handsome Swede or a young German woman working as an au pair. You get either images of "dirty mexicans" or jihadist Arabs. This fearmongering legislation effectively creates racism. When you hear repeated, over and over again, that illegal immigrants are costing tax payers and getting something that they don't deserve or that these same illegal immigrants are being incarcerated for other crimes, then you are teaching your average resident to resent if not hate these people. Consider what Rep. Metcalfe said:

"The taxpayers are picking up the tab, whether it's incarcerating illegals who have committed crimes or it's paying for health care benefits for illegal immigrants that are tapping into our system -- or if it's paying for the education of the illegal aliens' children that are here."

The ACLU of PA have helpful "talking points" to combat this kind of hateful distortion of how immigrants affect PA citizens. What is worth noting, in particular, is that illegal immigrants commit fewer crimes that native citizens and are going to prison "in smaller proportions than their share of the population at large." But, hey, as Rep. Cox says
"I personally don't think it's harsh. I think it's strictly an enforcement of the law. And if we stick to the law, we're not going to be caught up in the emotional argument."
I love it when people who use fear tactics and emotionally charged "arguments" turn around and say things like, "hey, stop being emotional about this, its a simple legal issue." You have politicians misrepresenting the immigrant population, teaching citizens to see these people as a threat to national security, wanting to deny them the few services they do have, and then you have the balls to say it's not harsh. Of course these same politicians fail to mention that these same immigrants pay Social Security, Income Tax and Sales Tax. To do so would be too level-headed, to evenhanded, and thereby less effective in persuading ill informed, down on their luck, PA citizens to support their sadistic legislation.