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If there is hope of another option, a legal one, don't you think that most of them would rather go that route?

The Southwest Conference on Illegal Immigration, Border Security, and Crime

Some of us are illegal, and some are not wanted,
Our work contracts out and we have to move on.
Six hundred miles to that Mexican border,
They chase us like outlaws, like rustlers, like thieves.

–“Deportees”, Woody Guthrie

A little more then a month ago, I opened a post on immigration with the above quote from “Deportees” by Woody Guthrie. In that post I offered up as a solution to our countries’ illegal immigration problem that we soften our restrictions on legal immigration and increase the penalties for employers caught hiring people not allowed to work in our respective countries.

In that post I also pointed out that Canada the United States are populated by primarily immigrants whose families have been here at most four hundred years. While that may seem like a lot to some of you, comparatived to other countries, it’s a mere blink of the eye. So where we get our rightful indignation about people coming to “our” countries is beyond my comprehension.

Given the recent paranoia and xenophobia guiding the decision-making process of most western governments these days, it’s no surprise that most people’s solution to illegal immigration is to build the walls around our countries higher (a la Israel) and pull up the drawbridge. Before anyone gets hot under the collar I should point out that is the prevalent attitude through Europe as well as North America, so I’m not picking on anyone in particular, yet. Although since European countries lack the land mass available in North America they have the excuse of worrying about overcrowding to fall back on.

In Canada, our immigration policy is geared towards ensuring we only get those who are either guaranteed jobs, have money, or have family that are willing to sponsor them. We are no longer willing to take people on speculation as immigrants.

Of course they can apply as refugees, but since this involves offering some proof that their life is in jeopardy if they are to be returned to their home country, unless they are on a United Nation’s list of designated refugee countries, their chances are slim. How often if you’re fleeing for your life do you manage to obtain paperwork like warrants for your arrest, or signed affidavits from your torturer?

These opinions aside, the problem of illegal immigration is very real, especially for the border states in the southern U.S. With millions of people living in poverty either directly south of them in Mexico, or in Central and Northern South America, there is a never-ending supply of people desperate enough to try anything to improve their lot in life.

This includes paying out huge sums of money, or going into a form of indentured slavery, to a variety of unscrupulous people willing to prey on the misfortunes of others. Placing their lives in the hands of people who think of them as nothing more than cargo, they are packed into trucks, and sped across the desert in the dead of night in the hopes of outrunning border patrols and vanishing into the anonymity of big cities.

Here they live a kind of half life at the mercy of their “benefactors” who, with a phone call, could have them deported. They have traded abject poverty for a false hope and a dashed dream of prosperity. One nightmare is supplanted by another as they struggle to get by in an alien world, on subsistence wages and no hope of ever bettering themselves or their children.

Districts and counties throughout the border states are struggling to find solutions to the problems these smuggling rings are causing in their areas. One such attempt is the Southwest Conference on Illegal Immigration, Border Security and Crime. The conference is sponsored by the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office (MCAO) and is open to law enforcement officials and the general public.

The Southwest Conference on Illegal Immigration, Border Security and Crime will discuss the problems related to illegal immigration and public safety and other related concerns critical to the citizens of this region. Conference aims as cited in their brochure

The brochure goes on to list the topics of discussion for the conference: effects of illegal immigration on state and communities, effects of illegal immigration on public safety, improving border security, employer sanctions – what is to be done, and that great catchall category of ‘many more’. I guess these topics make sense when one considers who’s hosting the event, but I wonder what they actually have to do with immigration policy.

The very title of the conference had filled me with misgivings, which increased when I read the topics for discussion. In fairness, I thought, the people organizing it are concerned with law enforcement, so their focus would be on the issues that most directly impact their office. It was only when I read through their list of highlighted speakers that I realized it was another attempt to sell the idea of fortress America to attendees.

From Congressman Tom Tancredo, pundit Mark Krikorian, and journalists John Leo, John Fund, and Stephen Moore to the minor speakers, they are all proponents of the ‘less equals more’ school of immigration. True, they have issued token invitations to two folks from dissenting camps, but they have yet to confirm. It will be interesting to see it they decide to show.

Looking through the supplied .pdf files at their web site (see above), the brochure lists the credentials of each speaker, and it reads like a who’s who of conservative think tanks and pundits. That would all be well and good if they didn’t at another point say they were aiming at a fair and balanced presentation. When only two of about twelve speakers even appear to speak from another perspective, there will be nothing wide ranging about the expression of ideas.

This conference appears to be a means of further legitimizing one specific agenda: increasing the isolation of America from the rest of the world. You may think that is quite the leap of logic to see that in a local conference dealing with the issue of border jumpers. When taken in context with the rest of the current administration’s policies on homeland security, and measures restricting entry into the country based on place of origin, it becomes just another brick in the wall of siege mentality.

There is no denying that illegal immigration is a serious problem for the border states. Measures must be taken to stem the flow, but the level of hysteria being propagated by government officials at all levels seems to far exceed the extent of the problem.

Smugglers in human cargo should be sent away for life, any business found hiring illegal workers should be fined into bankruptcy, no matter what excuses they offer, and those measures should be coupled with a more open door policy for economic immigrants. Our countries were populated by people coming here to better themselves and persue the dream of escaping poverty after all, and what’s wrong with that?

Instead of throwing ourselves into fits of hysteria about people “stealing jobs” that nobody else wants, maybe we should be looking at ways in which we can capitalize on a willing and able labour force. Designate areas where people are needed, and tell immigrants that’s where they can go. If they are genuine in just wanting a chance to start fresh, they won’t care.

Take, for example, the case of the Vietnamese boat people who came over in the ’70s. They were settled in places completely foreign to most of them, hell, Texas is foreign to most people let alone those from central Asia (joking), and have just been grateful for the opportunity.

It’s not going to matter how hard you crack down on illegal immigrants if you don’t allow more people to enter. The conditions that cause people to risk so much for the chance to come to our supposed promised lands won’t have changed, so they will keep trying. If there is hope of another option, a legal one, don’t you think that most of them would rather go that route?

The Southwest Conference on Illegal Immigration, Border Security, and Crime will take place in Scottsdale, Arizona at the Scottsdale Resort and Conference Centre from November 3rd to 5th, 2005. You can register online at their Web site, where you can also find information about accommodations and transportation, or you can call Maricopa County Attorney’s Office at (602) 506-3536.


About Richard Marcus

Richard Marcus is the author of three books commissioned by Ulysses Press, "What Will Happen In Eragon IV?" (2009) and "The Unofficial Heroes Of Olympus Companion" and "Introduction to Greek Mythology For Kids". Aside from Blogcritics he contributes to and his work has appeared in the German edition of Rolling Stone Magazine and has been translated into numerous languages in multiple publications.

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