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by Peter Moskos

April 26, 2010

Immigrants in Arizona

I try and face most issues objectively. But not this one. I am pro-immigrant. My mom is an immigrant (from Germany) and my father's parents were immigrants (Greeks from the Ottoman Empire on an Italian passport from what is now Albania).

New York was founded on illegal immigrants (hell, America was founded on illegal immigrants). Nativist bastards hated your immigrant ancestors, too. Especially if you are Irish. Don't forget that. And no, the immigrants of today are not so different from your parents, grandparents, or great grandparents. They were good people, most of them. And you turned out OK. And the difference between legal and illegal is just a matter of law. I'm for amnesty. Does that mean open borders? No. But we could be more open.

I do think native-born manual workers have a legitimate gripe. Nothing is clear cut. And I think there is a legitimate argument about immigrants in border states being a burden on local schools and hospitals. But no, I don't think we have an immigrant "problem." We need more immigration, not less.

If an immigrant, legal or illegal, commits a serious crime, I'm all for deportation. That's a luxury we have. But perhaps what bothers me most about anti-immigrant sentiment is the idea that immigrants are a crime threat. Immigrants commit less crime than native-born Americans. Many people don't know that. Some people are just so filled with racism and hate that they refuse to believe it. Shame on you.

About 10 percent of my students have two American-born parents (I ask). I assume some if not many are illegal (I don't ask). I live in a city where 40 percent of people are foreign born. 40 percent! And that's not even counting their children. That's what makes New York great. That's why I live in Queens, which is majority immigrant.

Maybe I'm biased growing up in Chicago and now living in New York. And neighborhoods with immigrants (legal and illegal) can be a bit seedy and poor, but they're generally interesting, safe, and have great food.

Messed-up cities and states, usually without too many immigrants, tend to be the most anti-immigrant. But for messed-up areas (and yes Baltimore, I'm thinking of you) immigrants are the solution, not the problem. Part of the reason they're messed up is because there are no immigrants!

And living in New York, a pro-immigrant policy is a security issue. Crime gets solved and terrorism gets prevented because people talk to police (and rat out the criminals). If police enforce immigration laws, immigrants get pushed underground. Nobody snitches. Crime goes up. New York gets bombed.

I hate to say it, but I imagine your average Arizona cop loves this new law. If you're filled with hate for immigrants, it's a gift. But even if you've got nothing against illegals per se, it's a tool.

For now I'm happy to just say, "f*ck Arizona." If Arizona doesn't want illegal Mexicans? Let Arizona stagnate. I hope all the Mexicans there pack up and move to my neighborhood. But if the anti-immigrant spirit spreads, I'll get more passionate. Rounding up people for not having their papers in orders in most definitely not American.


Nate said...

I am an Arizona Police Officer and I believe this is a horrible law. Most of my fellow officers believe so as well. The reasonable suspicion clause is problematic at best. I would not classify me as the average cop though as I am fairly left on the political spectrum. I wouldn't say most think it is a good law.

W. Butler said...

the Arizona law is ridiculous. As a cop, I've already referred plenty of illegals to ICE to be sent back across the border. This is a good tool to have on the tool belt, but I don't think cops ought to be FORCED to use this tool on each and every encounter with an illegal.

Dana King said...

While I sympathize with the immigrants in this situation--I'm German Irish, and I know of the warm reception some of my ancestors must have received when they got here--my primary concern here is for the law's potential impact on citizens, and the Constitution.

The two officers who commented above are to be commended; I'm sure their sentiments are indicative of most Arizona cops. What's scary here is that any cop with a bug up his ass can now hassle an Hispanic-looking citizen and claim probably cause. Since citizens aren't required to carry ID with them, the problem that cold ensue are, frankly, un-American, and strike at the core of what this country is about.

Anonymous said...

I live in Canada. Largly as result of geography we just don't have anything near the same level of illegal immigration as you do, so I am very ignorant of the reality of the issue in the U.S.

I do have have a question with regards to the link or non-link that is often made between crime and illegals. The argument that I have seen made by anti-illegal immigration types goes as follows:

Yes, illegal-immigrants have low rates of crime. If they were criminally inclined they would have stayed home and worked for the cartels. The real problems are with their American born sons. They often do poorly in school and drop out. Since they have been born and raised in the States they are not eager as their fathers to take up the low wage work for which they are qualified. Not only do these young poorly educated men have difficulty assimilating into the American mainstream culture, they also do not assimilate into the Mexican culture of their parents. Instead they are drawn into the culture of the American underclass. They then join gangs, are involved in a disproportionate amount of crime and have an illegitamcy rate second only to that of African-Americans.

What are the flaws with this reasoning?


From Canada

PCM said...

From Canada,

You raise some good points. And there's some truth in it. But I really don't see a problem with assimilation.

Overall, the kids still do assimilate (Maybe a bit less so on West Coast).

And it doesn't make your points untrue, but that argument, the "something is different about this generation of immigrants" has been used every generation. It might be true. But I doubt it.

Also, and perhaps this is what scares people, America will become more like the immigrant cultures. But I don't think that's a bad thing.

What could be more American than going out on St. Patty's Day?!

Anonymous said...

The argument I have heard made isn't that something is different about this generation of immigrants, but that they are too similar to those of the past. Illegal immigrants have low levels of educaton and skill, much like their legal counterparts in the late 19th and early 20th century. The problem is the country they are immigrating to is much different. Unlike when your ancestors immigrated a strong back just isn't enough. There is a skill mismatch. The result is limited social mobility for the immigrants and their children followed by growing resentment.

I believe this is one of the arguments put forth by anti-illegal immigrant activist Mark Krikorian who writes for the National Review.

-From Canada