Sunday, November 6, 2011

Immigrants and "states' rights"

Among the most commonly held misconceptions about immigrants:   They don't pay taxes, they steal jobs, they are criminals, they're a burden on our social safety net.    All four are demonstrably false -- they do pay taxes at the same rates as the rest of us, they create jobs, they are more law abiding than native-born citizens, they tend overall not to rely on social services.    This past week, the Alabama Attorney General actually dared to do something no one has tried to do since 1964 -- challenge the federal government over the validity of a law that on the surface runs afoul of the Civil Rights Act.

Simply stated, since this law -- probably the most anti-immigrant law of any state -- took effect, a lot of parents have been keeping their kids out of school for fear of harassment, even the children of legal immigrants.   The federal Department of Justice wrote a letter requesting school attendance records.   The state AG wrote back demanding to know what authority gives the feds that right.    The response from the feds cites not just the Civil Rights Act but also the Fair Housing Act, the Safe Streets Act, the Fair Labor Standards Act, etc.

Alabama, along with a number of states, seems to be of the opinion it has the right to craft immigration policy.   My research on the subject, limited as it is, indicates there is one -- only one -- federal country on the planet where subnational governments have authority on the inflow of foreign nationals and that country is Canada.   This owes primarily due to the fact that while there are categories of jobs that never change from one province to another such as migrant farmers and lumberjacks, each province may also have different and specific labour demands -- oil and gas workers in Alberta, high tech workers for the auto parts and assembly industries in Ontario and Québec, etc. -- so rightly should have a say in who is the best qualified.  All the other federations have immigration handled by the federal government for the simple reason that most see immigration, quite rightly to an extent, as a law and order issue that affects everyone -- immigration is usually handled, therefore, by the justice department of that country.

The sense I get is that since it is no longer acceptable to pick on blacks, it's okay to pick on what's left to pick on and that would be those who are "different" than the rest of the population.   Yet there seems to be such hypocrisy.    A racist will think it's perfectly okay to use a racist slur against someone from, say, Mainland China, yet barely a half hour later have takeout at a Chinese food outlet.    Or one will rail against "The Mexicans" but pump gas at a station managed by a Latino.

Rather than lashing out against the feds for "interfering in state affairs" the states should be working with each other as well as the feds to find out the real criminals who may be ripping off migrants who don't know what rights they are entitled to, so those who haven't broken laws can regularize their status, start paying taxes and help all three levels of government with their massive debt loads.    Otherwise, Alabama and other similarly minded states could be facing an economic and travel boycott which winds up hurting everyone, does no one any good, and only exacerbates the problem.    If Lady Liberty could speak, she'd light her torch and fire it with dead aim at the Alabama State Capitol, and with just cause.

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