Letters to Holly

Friday, March 31

Immigration Stupidity

I’m doing much better. I got back at your sister by stir-frying meat that had marinated in my spicy concoctions since Monday. Oh, yes, I cook with napalm. We have yet to hear back from the French guest. I emailed her Tuesday to encourage her to ask us anything she might want to know about Mayberry and the States.

The debate over reforming immigration laws has brought out the ugly in people. I’m all for enforcing the law, but this debate isn’t about law. It’s not about cheap labor. It’s about class warfare, something that allows a vocal chunk of morons to launch some bigotry under the guise of defending security.

I listen to talk radio because I like to hear conversation. I tune into to NPR, Air America, Neal Boortz, Limbaugh, and various syndicated folks. This was how I found the Boston station, by the way. I don’t espouse everything they do. I don’t believe they mean everything they say; radio is about entertainment, and the hosts adopt on-air personalities to draw an audience. But the listeners don’t always know that, and the rabidly loyal listeners can’t make a distinction between dramatic exaggeration and sincere ravings. Unfortunately, that leads them to say things out of the context of performance and parroting it as gospel. Now, radio didn’t invent simple-minded bigotry obviously, but it has allowed it to become fashionable and even politically convenient. The shit I’ve heard this week from callers disturbs and enrages me.

In standing up to illegal immigrants, I’ve heard people from the area and across the country regard the majority Mexican illegal population as vermin, accusing them of “overrunning” schools and hospitals, devouring economic and social resources, and bringing disease to the country. The leader of the Minuteman effort, for one, said this weekend that we are being “invaded” and illegal immigration threatens our national sovereignty. I’ve heard claims for over a year that Al-Qaeda are sneaking across the border from disguised as Mexicans in order to work in construction, pile up cheap explosives, and detonate a coordinated large-scale truck bombing in major cities across the country. And this is from Limbaugh and Hannity, not local crackpots. I don’t begrudge their anger at law-breaking, no matter what I might think of the intent and execution of those laws. But there’s no justification for this kind of discourse or for the hosts allowing it to air. Worse, it only encourages some dumbass to kill hisself some fer’iners.

The conservative hosts are in a pickle over immigration debate; they commonly preach self-determination to the small businessman, but they risk losing that core audience when they rail against the workforce on which many of them rely. Senator Feinstein of California stated yesterday that California’s landscaping business (the largest in that state) is made up of 86% illegal workers. That’s astounding.

The conservatives run a big risk by taking a strong stand against an open border. They need minority votes to hold onto the Congress, they risk support of even greater federalism (the antithesis of conservatism), and they inch closer to the stereotype that they care only about white folks. Democrats, likewise, want to appear string on national security without spooking the downtrodden, their poster children.

There’s a smart way to handle this problem, and it requires maturity and consideration. Unlike foreign policy, this is right up Bush’s alley. He lived and governed in Texas. And he is talking to Mexico’s Vicente Fox this week. He can make some headway as a leader if he handles this well. I’d like to see that. I don’t think it’s likely, mind you, but I’d like to see it. His success could maintain the GOP majority in Congress this fall. But so many republicans have distanced themselves from him over foreign policy that any achievement he might herald may not pay off politically.

Picture of the Day
Why wait to get on a reality TV show and have editors pixelate the logos on your clothing? Buy clothing with pre-pixelated logos! Genius.

In the news
New York City
publicly releases 911 calls from Sept. 11. I’m not ready to hear this. There’s also a new film about Flight 93 coming out soon. I’ll skip that too. Last year, I listened to the released scanner communication for the NY police and fire departments. That’s gonna stick with me for a while.

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Condi Rice on the war on terror: "I know we've made tactical errors, thousands of them I'm sure. But when you look back in history, what will be judged will be, did you make the right strategic decisions."

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