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{Empty title} | The Nation

To the editors:

I really would like to hear more from writers of letters-to-the-editor in your April 2 issue who, in response to Marc Cooper’s article, advocate mass deportation of undocumented immigrants and massive increases in border security. I’m sure they have carefully considered all sides of the immigration issue before coming to their conclusions, but I’m too dim to get it. Perhaps you could give them the space to explain, in small words, how they get around the following problems:

1. The law of the United States is clear: Being undocumented is not a crime, and undocumented people are not criminals. If they were, the government would have to overcome beyond a reasonable doubt in every single case that the immigrant is a.not a citizen, and b. not here legally. How much would the taxpayer save if the immigration service had to do this?

2. Very large numbers of immigrants are mothers, fathers, sons, daughters and spouses of US citizens and documented immigrants. How will state and federal budgets benefit from the huge demand for social services to fill in for the caregivers, parents, and providers of the abandoned US citizens and legal residents?

3. How will the country instantly replacement of the many doctors, nurses, teachers, carpenters, laborers, small-business owners, and other ‘criminals’ who, because of expired visas, nightmarish bureaucracy, arcane rules, among other reasons are here illegally? (The letter-writers should send their solution to Colorado. They seem to be a little desperate there since they drove out their immigrant agricultural workers.)

4. For that matter, how will social security be strengthened when this disproportionately young group of contributors (who, incidentally, will never recover a cent they paid in) disappears? Has it got something to do with New Math?

5. There are 10-12 million immigrants living in the United States. If the government must deport a population equivalent to that of Pennsylvania, how big will the budget surplus be?

6. Apparently, bleeding-heart Ronald Reagan’s blanket immigrant amnesty of 1986 must have violently torn the country apart leaving the nation in ruins of smoldering ashes. But I was here the whole time, and I didn’t even smell any smoke. Why not?

7. Do barriers to return to the United States once deported increase or decrease the odds that immigrants will try to stay here permanently?

8. Do strict immigration laws weaken or strengthen the negotiating power of immigrants to bring their wages to the same level as citizens? Do they become more or less likely to join a union? Are they more or less likely to be scabs? (Hmm, maybe cracking down on underpaid immigrants will be as helpful to working people today as cracking down on underpaid African Americans was to working people in the pre-civil rights South!)

9. Clearly, these anti-immigrant writers have irrefutable proof every single one of their ancestors came here legally (not counting the laws of Mexico or Native Americans). They have read and understood the entire immigration code and know how easy it is to comply with. Never mind those nattering naybobs who call it an inconsistent, nonsensical Byzantine monstrosity.They know exactly what an immigration lawyer would charge them to prove to the government that they themselves are legally here. (Or is it that our efficient, courteous, smooth-running immigration service could never misidentify and deport citizens?)

10. They must have a plan as to who will change the sheets in their nursing home beds in a few years or decades. As Katha Pollitt points out in the same issue, the US population would decline were it not for a large flow of immigrants, and the average age of US citizens grows steadily.

11. The consensus among economists is that immigrants bring in more value than they receive. Apparently, they’re full of crap. Please elaborate.

12. Would the world have been a better, or a worse place had immigration laws been looser in 1939 when we turned back the ocean liner St. Louis to Nazi-occupied Europe with 917 Jewish refugees on board? Are we not zealous enough in deporting their modern counterparts?

13. Are they being more selective? Maybe they're just talking about 'economic' immigrants such as those whose livelihood has been ruined by our subsidized agricultural products and 'free trade' agreements or perhaps those whose children are at great risk of dying before the age of 2 from preventable diarrheal diseases in their native countries. I'm sure they've thought hard about that.

14. When can the government tear down the Statue of Liberty and turn her into pennies? Apparently, these writers think her words don’t apply, it would be fiscally responsible, and she is French, after all.

I am sure that these letter-writers can’t be mean people. They must have a rational, moral way to justify condemning 10-12 million individuals as criminals and parasites, but I can’t figure it out! Maybe it’s like string theory.

Looking forward to the answers!