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Foreigner Refuses To Shut Up About Immigration

OK, fair’s fair. Having laid into Ms. Brock a few posts below, I should say that this response, by grad student Tami Hill, is annoying for different reasons, a few of which I’ll address here.

In regards to history, it is an acknowledged fact that the U.S. illegally took a large part of Mexicos territory in The Treaty of Guadalupe. The U.S. government is not above acting illegally.

This sort of rhetoric is a pet hate of mine: it’s about on a level with shouting “Yeah? Well, this whole court‘s out of order!” during your arraignment for public drunkenness. Even if the above statement is true in every particular, so what? The US, along with every other damn country in the world, was founded on a vigorous program of armed conquest, land seizure and other very bad things. The existence of laws – even, sometimes, laws that Tami Hill disagrees with – is not some unjust reward for historical pillage: it’s the way we try to mediate the pillaging of the future. (We may complain a lot about eminent domain abuse, but at least people aren’t being executed over it.)

Second, if you know anything about U.S. immigration policy, you know that we have changed our policies over the years for our own convenience, depending on labor needs…

The most damning indictment of all, that one.

Third, part of the reason Mexicos lack of infrastructure exists is not its own problem, but rather a result of how the U.S. has exploited this less powerful country over time.

And this is a symptom of the weird kind of egocentric guilt complex exhibited by many Americans on the subject of the lands beyond their borders. Poor countries are poor because America made them poor, and recover economically through American (or UN) munificence. If this is actually Hill’s contention, she should be supporting a closed border for the good of Mexico, one would think – but apparently not. While I’m at it, the scare-quoting in this column is absolutely epic: “journalism”, “illegal”, “criminal”, and, bizarrely, “Mexican”.

Building a big fence along the (“Mexican”) border is no kind of solution at all. Dealing with Castro to keep Cuban refugees out of the US is despicable. Having a group hug and giving visas to everybody isn’t a solution either. Why not? Because, as Glenn Garvin points out in that essay I linked to earlier, these (for example) backbreaking, insecure agricultural jobs simply would not exist if the pay was set to what most of us consider a living wage. Before that point is reached, it becomes cheaper to mechanize production or to just import the stuff from a different country, where it is being grown and harvested by people working in similarly awful conditions. I’m not sure that anything can be done to fix this – farm work has always been thoroughly nasty, and that’s why industrialization is generally regarded as positive progress. Still, the jobs are there, for now. And where there is opportunity, people will come. That’s America. I think part of the reason for the defense illegal farm workers get from people like me is that their stories – entrepreneurial vigor, determination, hard work at a thankless job bucking a remorseless bureaucracy – are pretty much classic American immigrant narratives. It might also have something to do with the fact that I’m reading this right now, which makes a similar point about a different country.

(So, before I do finally give this one a rest, I might as well take the opportunity to preemptively instruct all further ODE columnists tackling this subject to bite me, also. Oh, and I say this as a time-serving graduate student myself: informing your audience in the very first clause that you’ve been one for ten years will not necessarily get you a better reception.)

  1. Timothy says:

    But but but but the Mexicans got SCREWED it MUST be ILLEGAL! THE US IS EVIL! EEEEEVIIIIIL!

  2. Danimal says:

    Still trying to figure out how you can take something illegally by signing a treaty . . . you know, a legally binding pact between two nations.

  3. Timothy says:

    In the immortal words of Bluto: Seven years of college down the drain!

  4. Michael G. says:

    “… informing your audience in the very first clause that you’ve been one for ten years will not necessarily get you a better reception.”

    That was my first thought when I read it.

    Bet she took six or seven years to get her Bachelor’s degree.

    Tami: Do us a favor and just fucking graduate! (Or give up aready, as the case may be.)

  5. “The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was the peace treaty that ended the Mexican-American War (18461848). The treaty provided for the Mexican Cession, in which Mexico ceded 1.36 million km (525,000 square miles) to the United States in exchange for US$15 million.”

    Sounds like a pretty fair deal back in 1848.

    Tami should have graduated by now. Smacks of moronics.

  6. Andy D says:

    Olly, what is the living wage? You can give it to me in any MSA or city you want.

    Tami Hill must be working on her super-duper-awesome-extrodanary-belated doctorate. (Each year extra gets a prefix right?)

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