Sunday, January 08, 2006

Illegal immigrants: Hysterical prattle doesn't advance the debate

One of our fine local newspapers is the Loudoun Independit. (I happen to think it's the finest local newspaper with a supremely talented staff, but that's just my opinion.) Unlike other newpapers in the DC area, the very first page I turn to when I get the latest edition is the Editorial by editor John Geddie. Agree with him or not, the man's got great insights, he doesn't make unsupported allegations or try to foist his personal feelings off as gospel truth, and he's perfectly willing to allow the opposition in any debate take the floor for their 2 cents' worth. This is a man who's committed to advancing a debate rather than simply making ad hominem attacks.

Equally important to me are the letters to the editor that appear weekly on the same page. These are my neighbors talking about matters both of national import and of local significance. Some of my neighbors are more eloquent than others. Just like in the blogosphere, some are simply so far off base you wonder if they can connect 2 rational arguments together on anything. So it is with one of yesterday's letter-writers. A little background will be required for this to make sense.

Back on 23 December, a woman driving her SUV with her 2 children aboard ran off the road and overturned her vehicle into a pond here in Loudoun County. Three men on their way home from work witnessed the accident and moved immediately to assist. They got into that water - damn cold, I'd imagine - and managed to roll the vehicle onto its side. They then got all three passengers out. Rescue workers arrived and took over, airlifting the 2 children to a local hospital. The mom was treated and released. I'm afraid I don't have further info on the kids except to say that the number of fatalities in this accident was zero. I have no doubts whatsoever that would not be the case had those three men not jumped into that pond. There is no argument that they displayed the very best of humanity and did so without hesitation or thought of reward.

Ah, but you know it's not ending there, don't you? Seems the men in question are all Hispanic. I direct you to this story (in another of our local papers) with a picture of the 4 men along with a freebie promo shot of their boss's company van. What does their ethnicity have to do with anything? Nothing, in my book. Apparently, however, one of my neighbors has an axe to grind. Here's his letter to the editor in the latest Loundoun Independent:

::::::::Where were Minutemen?

To the Editor:

So I see where a woman drove her SUV into a pond, and she and her children were saved by three men on their way to work; all three of them have Hispanic last names. Were the Minutemen in Herndon off duty that day? They could have had the men deported and their employers arrested, and the woman and her kids could have drowned. No matter; the Minutemen, who have infallible knowledge and can tell which immigrants are illegal and which are not, hold immigration law above all others. So what if families don't get fed. So what if people drown.

Visit the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian. Our country was founded by illegal immigrants. Everyone here is descended from illegal immigrants. Even those of us who claim to be descended from legal immigrants benefited from immigration laws first made by descendants of those initial illegals who landed at Jamestown and Plymouth Rock.

Jerry Hyman

(Letter reproduced in full since these letters are only available the week they're printed.)

This letter is such a cornucopia of ad hominem attacks, irrelevancies, and outright falsehoods it's difficult to know where to start. So how about we hit the easy ones and start in reverse order?

"Our country was founded by illegal immigrants. Everyone here is descended from illegal immigrants." Bzzzzt, wrong answer. Thanks for playing. This one isn't the matter of opinion Mr. Hyman would like everyone to assume. Simple logic: in order for something to be illegal, there's got to be a law prohibiting it. When the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock and Jamestown, there were no immigrations laws. Ergo, arriving wasn't illegal. Period. Everything that issues forth from the concept that the first European arrivals here were "illegal immigrants" is an invalid argument because that concept isn't true. This is just so much hysterical drivel in an effort to misdirect people from realizing that Mr. Hyman's arguments aren't worth the air they're spoken with.

In our nation, on the other hand, there are immigrations laws and people crossing our borders in violation of those laws are, in fact, illegals. While Mr. Hyman is arguing the point about the Pilgrims being illegals, he doesn't appear to be arguing that people who slip across the border illegally are... well... illegals. It appears he just thinks that's not a big deal. More on that later.

He does, however, appear to think that the Minutemen are a big deal, and big problem at that. I find it ironic that his comment about the Minutemen's "infallible knowledge" of who is illegal or not (clearly a sarcastic reference intended to actually say they can't know any such thing) follows his bald assertion that the 4 men in question could have been deported had the Minutemen been there. Who said anything about these 4 men being illegals? They're hired on with a local electrician who's none too shy about having his guys and his truck photographed for the newspaper. No one, at any time, questioned the status of these 4 men. That is, right up until Mr. Hyman just assumed that because they all have Hispanic names that they're probably illegal. Then, he links the Minutemen's activities with the automatic loss of food for families and the drowning of women and children.

So, it's "enforce immigrations law and watch people drown?"

This kind of prattle doesn't do anything to advance the debate. It's just a bunch of argumentative flailing around in an effort to make people feel bad as opposed to persuading someone. It is, unfortuately, representative of the kind of arguments I hear from people who don't like immigration law.