Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Crossing borders

High Country News photo

Ash Wednesday is un-American. The day's central message is that which, drowning in our things, we hope to repress: we die. "You are dust and to dust you will return."

It is a good day to fight the terror of terror that has griped the country since 9/11. So it is good to read that the Roman Catholic Cardinal of Los Angeles, Archbishop Roger Mahony, has seized this occasion in the church calendar to denounce the fear of immigrants that is currently being exploited by politicians who thrive on fear. According to the LA Times

Mahony said he planned to use the first day of the Lenten season to call on all 288 parishes in the Los Angeles Archdiocese, the nation's largest, to fast, pray and press for humane immigration reform. ... "The war on terror isn't going to be won through immigration restrictions," he said, adding that Al Qaeda operatives would not trek through miles of deadly desert to infiltrate the nation.

In his most forceful comments to date, Mahony said he would instruct his priests to defy legislation — if approved by Congress — that would require churches and other social organizations to ask immigrants for legal documentation before providing assistance and penalize them if they refuse to do so. ...

"There is enormous ignorance out there," said Mahony, disputing as "myths" accusations that undocumented immigrants take jobs from Americans or don't pay taxes. "This is a teachable moment to help people understand that all of us are immigrant people."

We need some teaching on Ash Wednesday, a day to remember we all die alike, "lega" and "illegal."

Via the invaluable site Migra Matters, I've found a coherent discussion of what seems intuitively obvious: if capital, money, is to be free to run around the world seeking the highest profit, workers have to be free to seek better wages -- and that means open borders. Although for most of the history of the U.S. we had just that policy, in this time of fear it has become hard to make a picture of what it would mean if we tore down the walls and accepted that globalization has thrown millions of hungry people out of work in their own countries, sending them here in search of work.

Peter Laufer, author of Wetback Nation simply argues we should accept the reality we've created:

[T]he border issue, everybody agrees that what’s going on now is no good....So what I did is I looked at that and tried to figure out where to go next.

The next step that I come up with is that pretty much any Mexican who wants to come north, comes north. That’s the status of affairs currently. That’s one of the reasons why the border is out of control. ...

Then the third part of this thing is we want them to come north. Whether we admit it or not, we want them to come north. ...

But when you take those three things in a row, then you get to where I come—and it takes me 300 pages or whatever just to try to make this argument in a way that I think is cogent and defendable. But since everybody’s coming anyway that wants to come, since we want them to come, since we all agree the status quo doesn’t work, why don’t we try something radically different. And what could that be? Well, we just regularize what’s going on anyway. Because we’ve got ancillary problems on the border.

Those "ancillary problems" include a militarized frontier, people dying in the desert, a large underground population whose names and activities we can't keep track of, and lots of unnecessary separations of families and children.

Laufer says open the border and deal with reality. There's a "reality-based" answer to the "immigration problem."

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