Over the past couple of days, the main topic on this blog has been the controversy over the Arizona immigration law. I understand why Debbie Riddle and others want to do something about illegal immigration. What I don’t understand is why they think that passing a law will achieve anything. At best, we will be taking law enforcement officers away from the job they were hired to do — prevent crime and apprehend criminals — and charging them with the job of acting as immigration officials. They will be spending their time rounding up people who, for the most part, have committed no crime other than crossing a border without the proper documentation, and having them deported, after which most of the deportees will probably try to come back, only to be apprehended and deported again. Or are we going to fill our jails, or build new detention centers, with illegal immigrants? What options are left, short of shooting them down in the desert? We should have learned from the war on drugs that laws are meaningless if enough people are willing to disobey them. That is what those who seek to “secure the border” are up against. We are living in a period when poverty and lack of opportunity in the third world is so extensive that people will risk any hardship to escape. This has been going on for thirty or forty years now and no end is in sight. So many more people are willing to violate the law than are available to enforce it that there is no way to hold back the migratory tide. People in government enjoy the fiction of their own power. Rick Perry can impress Republicans by the symbolic act of sending Texas Rangers to the Border. He can win the votes of Border politicians by giving them money to buy Suburbans and call it homeland security. He can point the finger at Washington for not securing the border. But Washington is as powerless as Texas. Look at what Washington can’t do. It can’t defend its borders in the face of mass migration. It can’t defend its currency against the globalization of trade and finance. It can’t defend itself against shadowy threats like the Times Square bomber. Other countries are in the same boat. Even countries with strong national cultures–Japan and France and Germany–teem with immigrants. The era in which the only threat to the nation was another nation is over. That’s the lesson of 9/11. These thoughts are not original; they are gathered from books I have read. But I think they reflect the reality we live in today. The Arizona immigration law represents a spike in the national uncertainty over America’s future. The only thing that is certain is that a law is not going to change the nature of the times in which we live.
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