April 25, 2006 12:10:58 am
A character in a recent episode of Boston Legal said: “When the weapons of mass destruction thing turned out not to be true, I expected the American people to rise up. They didn’t. Then, when the Abu Ghraib torture thing surfaced …I was sure then the American people would be heard from. We stood mute. Then came the news that we jailed thousands of so-called terrorist suspects, locked them up without the right to a trial…Certainly, we would never stand for that. We did. And now, it’s been discovered the executive branch has been conducting massive, illegal, domestic surveillance on its own citizens…And I at least consoled myself that finally, finally, the American people will have had enough. Evidentially, we haven’t. In fact, if the people of this country have spoken, the message is we’re okay with it all…There are no demonstrations on college campuses…The Secret Service can now declare free speech zones to contain, control and, in effect, criminalise protest…If you’re wearing or carrying something in protest, you can be removed. This! In the United States of America.”
The character is fictional but the words, unfortunately, are not. So what issue would bring hundreds on to the streets? A proposed bill to criminalise illegal immigration. For the past several days, anger at the proposed bill to restrict illegal immigration has been overwhelming with huge demonstrations across several cities including LA, Denver, Dallas, Houston, NY, Washington and Chicago. Just so we understand the priorities: 500,000 turned out in LA and Dallas to protest proposed attempts to deal with illegal immigration. Larger by an order of five than the biggest demos against anything Bush has done in his five years.
The pro-immigration demonstrators may have a perverse point. When a president himself can break the law with no fear of being called to account, why should a hapless illegal entrant be made to pay a price for his offence? Presidents after all are sworn to uphold the law; illegal immigrants are not. When a country winks at law-breaking, whether by president or by commoner, its impacts are wide ranging. A felon administration and a conniving Congress can hardly proclaim with any conviction that the law is supreme.
Recall that we live an era of amnesty (and amnesia). An administration breaks faith — and laws. Congress responds to this cynical garroting of the statute in letter and spirit by proposing to change the law retrospectively! Is it not also logical, then, to extend the same formula to illegal immigration? A political class that is both effete and venal cares little about the long term effects of such compromises. It answers to a higher power power than the Constitution. To paraphrase Homeland Security Michael Chertoff during the recent Port Deal controversy — business must go on, and the state has no greater duty than to protect the free flow of commerce. When the state is so obviously paralysed by political calculation, it is but one more piece of evidence that the US has slipped into classic third world mode, with the line between corporate and state interest disappearing at one end, and that between the country and its neighbour vanishing at the other.
The writer lives in the United States
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