Thursday, July 13, 2006

"We don't want them here"

Marie Waldron, city council member for Escondido, CA, explained her proposal to fine landlords who rent to undocumented immigrants this way, “They’re breaking the law and we don’t want them here,” according to the San Diego Union-Tribune of July 12, 2006. Her proposal was inspired by the actions of the city council of Hazelton, PA, which ordered that the business licenses of companies that hire illegals be revoked, landlords who rent to them be fined $1000, and that English is that city’s official language. The Hispanic population of Hazelton, located 45 miles south of Scranton, has gone from less than 1000 in the census of 2000 to about 10,000 today, about one third of the community. No one knows how many might be there illegally. The city council decided to take this action anyway.

I’ve heard the first part of that quote often enough, on talk radio, on the internet, and in print. I always wonder about the outrage people express this way. Does this apply to all lawbreakers? To speeders? To drunk drivers? What is the threshold of lawbreaking that makes someone this undesirable?

I suspect that while some genuinely abhor breaking the law, there’s more to it when someone says, “We don’t want them here.” Why not? Do they interfere with your vision of a homogenously affluent community? Do they prevent your dream of a community where everyone believes as you do? Are billboards in Spanish a factor or people speaking Spanish next to you in line at the grocery store, so you can’t judge them as easily as you do English speakers? Is it hearing Mexican music more than you care to?

It’s easy to understand those who come to the US illegally for work. They want to survive. They want their family to survive. People will do all sorts of things to survive.

Those who would stop illegal immigration are harder to understand. They say they want to keep terrorists out. What terrorists are stopped by longer waits to cross at Tijuana? They say illegals cost taxpayers money. I suppose some do. Maybe we can find an appropriate tax to offset that. They say they are against any illegal activity. Fine, perhaps they would like to contribute their own money to that effort rather than everyone else’s taxes as well as regulations that make life for others harder.

People can say whatever they want. What rings true is “We don’t want them here.” We don’t need to get rid of undocumented workers to feed our families, but some want to anyway, and might makes right, along with whatever excuses make that more palatable.

I don’t know what the consequences of this are. 42% of the population of Escondido is Latino, but maybe many of them want to be tough on illegals as well. Marie Waldron already has a majority of the city council with her in this, as long as they are satisfied that federal laws against discrimination regarding national origin would not be broken. There are benefits to obeying the law after all, even if it doesn’t feed one’s family to do so.

So whatever it is that has “us” looking down our noses at “them”, it will continue. I wish more would save so many words and admit the obvious, “We don’t want them here.” That’s the whole conflict in a nutshell.

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