I recently received a rather bizarre e-mail pointing out that countries such as North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Cuba have robust border security and don’t tolerate people crossing their borders illegally. The e-mail went on to point out the generous (but inaccurately described) benefits the United States grants to people who enter our country illegally and implied that we would not have a problem with illegal entry if we just took a page from these less-than-democratic countries. While I’d like to think this was left wing satire, I’m afraid it was a serious anti-immigrant solution to the problem.
Fortunately, we do not follow the lead of North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Cuba in our approach to immigration. While we strive to make our borders more controlled, we would do well to remember why we have the problem in the first place – and that can be summed up as the American Dream.
We have all benefited from the American Dream, regardless of how long our ancestors have been in this country. People want to come to America; they dream of coming to America. The economic opportunity here has been, and still is, without equal. But even more important than economic opportunity are the freedoms and rights we enjoy as citizens. We, as citizens, have also learned the importance of affording fundamental rights to everyone in our country, and these rights extend even to undocumented migrants.
While there are many reasons to argue against the recent Arizona legislation on the grounds of bad law and worse public policy, what concerns me the most is that, with this law, Arizona dives headlong down the path of emulating the “model” countries named in the anti-immigrant e-mail.
We all agree we can do better on the border. I hope we all agree we can do better than the Arizona law.