The Right to Migrate

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

The issue of so-called illegal immigration has produced an interesting political alignment, not quite like that produced by other important issues. The climate of fear that has been encouraged by Bush neoconservatives in order to push their agenda of Presidential dictatorial power, and offensive use of military force, and world domination has also resulted in a wave of xenophobia, seen in the Dubai Ports furor and an anti-immigration stance by a variety of confused caucasians. Normally the power-seeking Bush Republicans would jump right into the reactionary camp just as they did with the theocracy-seeking religious extremists, but it happens that many influential business interests need the 'illegal immigrants' to stay right where they are, working hard for low wages. So, we have an odd alliance between big business and a very large number of Americans with Hispanic heritage, who naturally sympathize with the immigrants, and millions of others who believe that America stands for the principles inscribed on the Statue of Liberty.

The xenophobes have little of substance on their side. Proposals to wall off the borders and to make illegal entry a felony are simply absurd. Where would we imprison these millions of newly created felons, even if we caught them? Concentration camps?

Perhaps the newly mobilized supporters of immigration will help focus on the most important human side of the controversy. The business interests are not perfect allies, because they would prefer immigration remain illegal but mostly unenforced. That way, immigrants will continue to accept low pay and keep a low profile, fearing to organize or complain.

Those who make an issue of the illegality of immigration are only playing semantic games. Any sensible person knows the difference between real crime and artificially created crime. The problem is not the immigrants. The problem is the law that declares them illegal. The law not only subjects the immigrants to needless hardship and victimization and keeps them outside the law, it makes any real border security impossible.

Business interests will no doubt resist legalization as much as felonization, since a legal immigrant could be protected by labor laws and not as easily exploited. But Americans who care about social justice and who envision our country as a liberator, not an oppressor, of mankind will make their views known and work toward opening our borders to all who come in peace to seek a better life.