Smart Borders

All future postings from blogger Matthew Webster will now appear on:

http://smartborders.wordpress.com

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Monopolicies

     When I was only 18, I received a check of $18 from a class-action lawsuit against BMG for its monopoly price gouging practices of the 1990s. BMG, along with several other mail-order music clubs, had decided that it would overprice its discs so that it could still make a hefty profit off its “12 for the price of 1” deal. This is all well and good, but this corporation stepped over the line when it encouraged other music clubs to do the same, so they wouldn’t out-compete each other in their markets.

     One of the most telling signs of a monopoly is that businesses in apparent competition all agree not to compete in a certain manner or venue. While the U.S. government and its bi-partisan system are arguably not a corporation, they have most certainly engaged in “monopolicies” in regard to immigration reform. By agreeing not to disagree on this issue until after the elections, they have effectively silenced the 12 million extralegal immigrants, and the millions of legal citizens who plead for them, for yet another year. Our country screams out for deep immigration reform just as it railed against Prohibition some 80 years ago. But all the major candidates have skirted the issue at best, breathing platitudes and supporting a ridiculous gesture of national defense – the Secure Fence Act of 2006.

      It has certainly brought our nation to an impasse, when politicians are terrified to speak about an issue which greatly affects our nation’s GDP, society, education, healthcare, and future. This past week Hilary Clinton was railed against when she dared say the illegal immigrants should be able to apply for driver’s licenses. Whether you agree with her other policies or not, she was one of the only candidates who would take a firm stand and propose some means of incorporating the 12 million and counting people who reside within our borders without any legal protection or identification. Nearly every other candidate criticized her statements, yet not of them addressed the underlying issue. If we are not to give these people a means to citizenship, are we to spend billions of dollars extraditing and deporting 12 million people who largely comprise our labor class? If we fail to allow residents, illegal or otherwise, the opportunity to legally register their vehicles or themselves, will that take any steps towards keeping them off the roads or “securing” within our nation’s borders?

      It is time that the people of United States take a stand against any sort of monopolicies. For too long, we have allowed politicians to tell us what the “real issues” are. Growing up as an evangelical Christian, I, along with so many well-meaning religious people, voted my “conscience” by choosing a “pro-life” candidate. These candidates, largely Republican, touted the fact that they would support pro-life policies, but in their terms of office no large alterations have been made to Roe vs. Wade but huge changes have occurred in our militaristic mindset and our warmongering ideals. It is time that the people of this democracy decide which issues they are voting on and then hold their candidates accountable to those issues. So far, the outcry for immigration reform has rested simply within our souls, but we must make it loud and clear that we cannot continue living in a country where 12 million people live without rights, protection, documentation, or hope of attaining citizenship for anyone but their posterity. If America is to have any hope in maintaining its status as a world leader, taxes, war victories, campaign reform, and even nationalized healthcare are not the real issues. The real issues, the issues which must come to the forefront of our national debates, are education and immigration reform. These are the two ways in which we can better our future today.

Published in: on November 4, 2007 at 10:12 am  Leave a Comment  

Criminalization

Much dialogue on marijuana in the last few decades has centered around the large rates of incarceration and the exorbitant cost of imprisonment. According to estimates in Eric Schlosser’s book Reefer Madness, some 20,000 inmates are currently imprisoned primarily for a marijuana charge. Proponents for legalization have a valid point when they argue that if marijuana were no longer criminalized, it would save the United States millions of dollars in lost labor and imprisonment fees.

What is more bizarre, then, is that very few politicians or advocates have spoken loudly or clearly on the topic of immigrant criminalization. With more than 12 million undocumented immigrants currently living and working in the United States, this number defies all logical enforcement and flouts our underfunded prisons.

There are essentially two types of bad legislation. Some failed legislation are good laws badly enforced, as in the case of the Emancipation Proclamation or school desegregation in the South. Both of these were good laws which lacked a concerted effort at universal, uniform enforcement. While some states succeeded in integrating students of all ethnicities, many states found loopholes and ways to thwart real enforcement.

The other sort of bad legislation are bad laws impossible to enforce. Prohibition, as laid forth in the 18th Amendment, was a good moral choice but bad legislation. State-mandated alcohol abstinence was impossible to enforce; it succeeded in little more than feeding mob activity and criminalizing thousands of people who up to this point had been law-abiding citizens.

Our current immigration system in the United States would fit into the latter category. With over 12 million illegalized citizens, it is fiscally and theoretically impossible to punish, discipline, fine, imprison, or detain every extralegal immigrant in the U.S. Its enforcement is impossible, but that has not stopped us from pouring $6.7 billion dollars into border security for 2007. Border security received more than a 3% raise from 2006, while education funds remained essentially the same and emergency funds were cut by 2%, even in the wake of the Katrina fiasco. With all these increased border security measures, the cost to apprehend a single illegal immigrant crossing the border has risen from $300 in 1992 to $1700 in 2002. And we still have over 12 million undocumented immigrants.

The only immigration reform which has been approved in the past few years has been in bulking up our border security. However, that is missing the crux of this situation – this is ultimately self-defeating, prohibitively expensive, and impossible to enforce.

Martin Luther King, Jr., in his outspoken speeched against Vietnam, stated that, “Justice is indivisible.” To have a law on the books which is unjust and not being enforced is to shake the very bastions upon which our justice system stands. Ultimately we must join with King in agreeing that, “no document from human hands can make these humans any less our brothers.” While amnesty will not solve everything, offering a feasible path towards citizenship for potential illegal immigrants as well as undocumented workers currently residing in the U.S. will begin to address this article of failed legislation and this pock upon our moral countenance.