As he picked up his pen to sign an historic bill into law, it is said that President Lyndon Baines Johnson turned to his aide and said, of the Democratic Party, "We've lost the South for a generation".
These words proved prophetic, as the south has never quite gotten over the passing of the Civil Rights bill in 1964. Every presidential election since that time has shown the south overwhelmingly in favor of the conservative candidate.
The bill was intended to curtail racism between blacks and whites, which, slowly, it has mostly succeeded in doing, far more so than had it never been passed or had been delayed. However, a new historic bill has been signed into law, not by a president, but by a governor in the southwest state of Arizona.
Long considered a conservative bastion, the home of Sen. John McCain has also been respected for it's non-conformity to either side of the political aisle, until recently, when Governor Jan Brewer signed a highly controversial Immigration Reform bill into law.
The bill grants police the authority to stop anyone they suspect of being an illegal immigrant and force them to show documents.
I realize that last sentence sounds like something from an Orwellian novel, but sadly, this is now the law of the land in Arizona.
Many opponents of the bill have referred to it as inherently racist. Proponents counter that illegal immigration is against the law, drains the social welfare system and takes jobs away from Americans.
Let's look at these arguments to see if, maybe, the conservatives have a point.
1. "Illegal Immigration is against the law".
This is true. It states it right there in the name, "Illegal Immigration". No way around this. However, you then need to look at why people migrate illegally? Is it because, as many have suggested, they're all criminals and come here looking to criminalize the US? No, and that's a ridiculous argument. A vast majority of illegal immigrants strictly adhere to the law because they don't want to draw attention to themselves and face deportation.
So why so much illegal immigration? It's simple really. Most immigrants come from poor countries looking to better themselves and their families or escape a murderous government regime (far too often). As the United States is not known for murdering dissidents, we tend to be the obvious destination of choice. However, our immigration requirements are many, and the cost is often far too high. Additionally, many foreign governments tend to tack on extra charges to those seeking a green card, including some who will not allow their citizens to leave. As immigration primarily appeals to those who want to better their lives, the costs are often impossible for them.
That the bill itself, as it speaks to immigration reform, is illegal apparently has no bearing for the citizens who so hypocritically defend it. Constitutionally, no state is allowed to pass immigration law, as it is a power reserved for the federal government alone. I'm sure Arizona will soon declare war on Mexico once the bill is overturned.
So why migrate illegally? Why not? Personally, I'd rather take my chances with some maniac racist with a shotgun than a well-organized military hunting me down for disagreeing with the Commandante.
2. "Immigrants drain the social welfare system".
Well lets look at some numbers if this is what you believe, courtesy of the Center for Immigration Studies. According to their data, 24.5% of all immigrants collect welfare of some kind. That means that less than a quarter of them actually receive benefits.
But, according to the conservative argument, they all do. So by that rationale, we can safely assume that Americans actually voted for John McCain to become president, because apparently, more than a quarter of Americans did indeed vote for him. In fact, they overwhelmingly supported him as I believe he garnered around 40% of the vote. Wow! What a resounding statement for President McCain!
Many also fail to point out that, because they are using fake ID numbers, illegal immigrants end up paying into the social security system, but are unable to collect later due to their illegal status.
What an awful drain!
3. "Immigrants take jobs away from hard-working Americans".
Well, immigrants do require jobs, which is usually why they come here in the first place. However, the types of jobs they take have very few, if any, Americans working there.
First off, 5% of the entire workforce is made up of immigrants. Secondly, 30% of illegal immigrants do not have a high school degree, while 95% do not possess a college degree. Start worrying, because that internship you had in college that they promised would lead to a job after graduation will soon be filled by a high school dropout illegal immigrant.
Immigrants primarily work in low-paying entry-level service jobs (fast food, restaurant) or difficult low paying manual labor jobs requiring 10-12 hour days in most cases. The primary demographic of Americans who work in these jobs are high school students and mom's looking for part-time work, although usually they are working in different roles than the immigrant workers.
When unemployed, because they are often found ineligible for unemployment or have no knowledge of its existence, the workers become day laborers, begin selling flowers and oranges, or simply accept any job they can get to survive and provide for their families. I can honestly say very few American citizens are willing to do this.
In addition, 1 out of every 10 immigrants, legal and illegal, eventually become business owners, employing american workers, exactly on par with the entrepreneurship exhibited by American citizens.
Watch out all you CEO's! Next week an illegal immigrant may just overtake your position!
So what is the reason for this bill? Is it racism? Not entirely. There is a racist agenda behind the bill, as I can almost guarantee that few European, Russian or Canadian immigrants, legal or illegal, will be stopped and asked to show identification. So race definitely plays a small factor, however the primary reason for this is the age old practice of scapegoating.
Immigrants have often been scapegoats throughout time. Economy failing? Blame the immigrants! Disease outbreak? Gotta be the immigrants! Rise in crime? Probably the immigrants! There was a Solar eclipse? Witchcraft by the immigrants!
The point is, we can keep pointing fingers and deporting people because of the problems the country is having, but it has nothing to do with them.
As is usually the case, those who accuse the loudest often have the guiltiest conscience.