Illegal immigration and the war of words

The story of New Ipswich, New Hampshire’s police chief, Garrett Chamberlain, and his novel way of dealing with illegal immigrants is getting more and more attention. (A quick recap for those of you who may have missed it: Chief Chamberlain is using the state’s Criminal Trespass statute to prosecute illegal aliens he catches that the federal government doesn’t want to deal with.) Another chief in a nearby town, Chief Richard Gendron of Hudson, liked the idea so much he’s using it himself.

First, it was the Mexican government that got a bit peeved at Chief Chamberlain’s innovative approach. Then the New Hampshire chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union decided to stick its nose into the matter. Now, it’s heating up even more.

A group calling itself “The New Hampshire Immigrant Rights Task Force” is organizing a caravan to travel to Hudson and New Ipswich tomorrow to hand-deliver letters of protest to the chiefs.

Once again, we are seeing the cynical manipulation of language by these so-called “immigration advocates.” They want to define the terms of the argument to improve their chances of winning the fight.

This happens all the time. The side that controls the language of the argument has a tremendous advantage. This is played out in the abortion argument, where one side claims it’s “pro-choice” versus “anti-choice,” while the other insists it’s “pro-life” versus “pro-abortion.” It might seem silly, but it’s actually a key battle.

Personally, I tend to call any group by the name it chooses for itself, within reason. My main exception is when that name flies in the face of reason or somehow offends my sensibilities. One example would be “African-American.” I don’t use that term for two reasons: first, I don’t like hyphenating “American” — it strikes me as unnecessarily divisive. Secondly, it’s too general a term — not all Africans are black. There are quite a few Arabs from Africa, and let’s not forget Theresa Heinz Kerry once called herself an African-American.

But I digress (as usual). Back to the topic at hand.

These advocates are trying to blur the line between LEGAL immigrants and ILLEGAL immigrants in the hopes of painting their opponents with the broad brush of being racist, xenophobic bigots.

Here’s an analogy for you: there’s a boxing match on HBO that I want to see. I don’t subscribe to HBO, but my neighbor does. He’s away for the weekend, but I know where he hides his spare key. Without his permission, I go over and watch the match, have a little snack and a beer, and watch the fight. After the match, I feel a smidgen guilty, so I clean his bathroom for him. And so others can enjoy the benefits I have, I leave his door unlocked when I leave.

What’s the harm? I only used a little of his electricity and food, and I did a job nobody likes to do before I left.

One of the most fundamental rights of a nation — hell, one of the most fundamental DEFINITIONS of a nation — is establishing and securing its borders, and determining the places and manner non-citizens may enter. The United States has one of the most generous (if not the most generous) immigration policies. We are quite possibly the only nation that has a long history of people struggling to get and stay here.

But that isn’t good enough for these “immigration activists.” They denigrate and insult the millions of immigrants who follow the rules, fill out the paperwork, and in cases wait years to come to the United States. For heaven’s sake, look at Arnold Schwarzenegger. He spent a decade to become an American citizen, and now he’s governor of the most populous state.

The so-called “immigration advocates” are not human-rights activists in the least. They are challenging the United States’ very right to set and govern its own borders, which is one of the key elements in the definition of a nation. And even more contemptibly, they’re smearing the millions of immigrants who actually respected and followed the legal procedures and policies we have established by lumping them in with those who cross our borders illegally.

I’d love to go down and attend the “convoy,” to present a contrasting opinion, but unlike the “activists,” apparently, I have a job to go to.

(Update: broken link fixed. Thanks, Ken.)

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