Wednesday, June 21, 2006


by Antonio Bernal
As in all controversial issues, there is much heat and little light in the sophist declarations of right wing Americana regarding the question of illegal immigration. People who are trying to get their point across say one thing and mean another. They cannot say what they mean openly because it would be too unpopular. First the ground must be laid and public opinion must be brought around. An analysis of the fallacies they put forth reveals some interesting conclusions.
They declare that " illegals are hurting themselves and other job seekers by working for less.". They are afraid immigrants will drive down the wages of all Americans. They imply that good-paying jobs are for all of America's citizens, but not for them.
The fallacy is that immigrants don’t set wages any more than US workers do. It’s a case of blaming the victim. It also begs the question, because it presupposes that the audience agrees that US citizens have good paying jobs, something that is controversial in itself.
More contradictory reasoning is evidenced by their assertion that "illegals" only come here to get on welfare. This, they say, encourages illegal immigration. Illegals use our medical resources and schooling, while sending money out of the country.
It is not clear, then, whether immigrants come here to work and bring wages down, or they come here to do nothing and get benefits. The fallacy here is in the use of a circular argument, since one cannot reasonably concede one if the other is questioned. Either you accept that they come to work or that they come to sponge; you can’t have it both ways. This, too, begs the question of the use and availability of the medical system, which has been highly criticized not only by citizens, but in the Congress. As far as sending money to another country, it is money that is the result of honest, hard work, and there is no comparison with that and the financial benefits accrued to the US in the form of payments on loans and exploitation of foreign resources.
Behind a lot of the hysteria lie some deeply-held beliefs that only come out in flashes, as lightning punctuates a drizzly litany of rain. Those who are against "illegals" see themselves as "real Americans," who start businesses, raise themselves from poverty, and raise a decent and pious family. They even run marathons, and climb mountains for sport. They have worked hard for what they have, and they see it slipping away. This is supposed to be a nation of laws, which have always protected them. The schools have always fed them soothing stories about America’s greatness, passing over unpleasantness such as slavery as "things in the past." Perhaps an unconscious guilt at what they call "revanchism", fuels their defensiveness. They feel Mexicans have a hidden agenda to get their own back and destroy the US country and culture. They believe that what is at stake is nothing less than the survival of the nation itself. They feel they can "save America" by closing the borders.
The positivist forward-looking attitude of ignoring the past is a refusal to own up to that other history. The right wing are given reminders of US military and economic adventures into helpless countries, and they don’t like it, because the truth is too harsh and it destroys the image they have of themselves. The "real Americans" see illegals as undermining their culture. They hear and see merengue and cumbias, tacos and carnitas. They don’t realize that US culture has always been to some extent Mexican. For example, there would be no cowboys of the American West if Mexicans had not taught the encroaching Easterners grazing, round up, branding and cattle slaughtering techniques.
Such coarse reactions to immigration need to be justified, and the right wing does this by demonizing. Demonization is the characterization of groups as evil or subhuman to justify an attack, whether by character assassination, legal action, denial of political liberties, or warfare. By suspending humane behaviour and respect, it encourages oppressive actions against the demonized group, ranging from ostracism to genocide. The demonized groups are portrayed as evil and/or subhuman beyond any dispute and any means of self-defense or attack are considered legitimate.
Immigrants, to the right wing, come straight out of the news (not from personal contact), where people live 10 to a room and take spit baths once a week and cook over a 55 gallon drum. Illegal aliens come through from Mexico only to trash their property. They pledge allegiance with one hand while stealing with the other. They pay cash so they do not have to pay taxes, they lower the pay scale so they pay less in Social Security. They are so lazy that they expect others to do everything for them. They want something for nothing. Politicians in Washington don’t care that law-abiding American property owners are being robbed, raped and shot on their own land. Illegal aliens are law-breaking criminals and liars, cheaters, and thieves (i.e.—stealing a life in the US that does not belong to them).
Aside from the glaringly mistaken presuppositions (immigrants do pay taxes-their employers may not if they do not carry records), it is not enough to demonize the target, or argue the fallacy from a special case to a general rule. Any supporting system must be also cut away. After welfare, schools are a favorite goal.
High school students don’t know the difference between legal and illegal immigration, they claim, because their teachers and the news media call illegal aliens ‘immigrants’ and ‘undocumented workers’. Those foreign language-speaking students drive down test scores, and should be excluded. The language of America is English.
In the appeal to popular attitudes and assumptions we find further sophistry. On the contrary, high school students are reminded every day of their status at school, in that they cannot get scholarships and are treated as inferiors. Foreign language speakers would not drive down test scores if tested in their native language. A casual perusal of television stations and print media would drive one to the conclusion that the language of the US is not by any means only English.
A favorite objection by the right wing is the issue of legality. They claim not to be against immigrants, just illegal ones. These are a slap in the face to every legal immigrant who waited in line for their chance to come to America, because they are trying to get ahead of the line. They criminally cross our sovereign borders and come into this country illegally. Illegal is illegal, no matter what country you're from. We as taxpayers are paying for these illegals who don’t play by the rules. They either cunningly overstay the term of valid legal visas and constitute an unlawful presence, or they are the fence-jumpers who constitute illegal entry.
The obvious fallacy here is also clear — the appeal to endorsement by the powerful, in this case, the courts. Again the question is begged; who made the law? Was this some bi-national agreement aimed at solving the situation? Were the causes of immigration ever explored in promulgating such a law? Is the law itself legal?
The right wing feels it is under attack. However, they misinterpret the nature of the challenge, seeing it as offensive, rather than defensive. They believe that Mexico is elaborating a deliberate program of brazenly reaching into another country and telling it what to do. They ask rhetorically; Will Mexicans simply retake the southern U.S.? Mexico loves to dictate to the U.S. what its immigration policy should be. Immigrants constitute a massive tidal wave of "reconquistas" seeking benefits through fraud that inundates our service centers, district offices and asylum offices nationwide. Illegal aliens file all manner of phony applications seeking tax-supported benefits. The "guest worker program" is an illegal alien amnesty. The border issue is secondarily economic, primarily about security. Mexican criminal syndicates are stepping up their attacks on American agents patrolling the border as officials of the Homeland Security Department intensify efforts to stem the flow of immigrants and drugs into the United States.
This fallacy skillfully changes the point. The issues of jobs is an economic one, not one of security. US corporations profit from immigration by using up resources in Mexico and at the same time creating a cheap labor force in the US. While it is true the Mexican government is partly to blame for the situation, the argument switches things around. Even if two things are true, one is in fact always truer than the other. It is not Mexican capital, or the Mexican government primarily, but the US corporations in the economic sphere, and the US government in the political sphere that have created and maintained the situation, profiting economically by it on one hand and demonizing it for political gain on the other. By falsifying the obvious cause and effect, the right is free to threaten its audience and instill fear in the heart of those who listen .
Special venom is reserved for what the right calls "liberals," an ambiguous term at best. Liberals, they say, suggest we allow everyone in South America and Mexico to come here illegally. Why don't they move to Mexico, if they hate America?
The answer, of course, is that few liberals believe that "everyone" should come to America, aside from the absurdity of the idea in the first place. By engaging in personal attacks, instead of offering arguments as to why the liberals are wrong, the right manages to skirt the issue. It does not follow that criticism of the US is hatred of America. By equivocating on shades of meaning, the right manages to shift the focus and presuppose something that is not in the argument in the first place.
The right wing appeals to protestant thinking and encourages punishment, rather than cooperation and mutual benefit, as a solution. Those who support the military are encouraged to report illegal aliens and criminal residents to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement division of the Department of Homeland Security, to "report suspicious activity of illegal immigration and the massive foreign crime wave on our shores ." This encourages those who would take it one step further to militarize the border and kill those who "break the law." The ultimate answer, they claim, to the problems of illegal immigration and border anarchy is the military. The intensity of violence experienced by Americans living all along the Mexican border is increasing, they say. They make the case for summary removal of illegal aliens and criminal alien residents to counter the threat of military-style resistance lurking along and within our own borders.
Again, the victim is blamed and the real victimizer acts as if he were under attack, when those who have died at the border far outnumber the few corrupt police and guards killed in drug skirmishes. By arguing from a special case to a general rule, the right has once again falsified the issue by changing the point. The US mafia and government collusion are too deeply involved in drug running for that to be an immigration issue. Besides, a war with Mexico would blockade US holdings in that country and bankrupt the US economy, not something Washington will tolerate.
From this investigation we can conclude several things that are usually kept under the surface. (1) Right wing Americans are unable to see that the issue of immigration is primarily one of unemployment. (2) They are unable to see that a welfare system that is broken hurts all the unemployed, including citizens. (3) They are just as blind to the fact that their culture is not threatened. (4) An important weapon in the right wing arsenal is demonization, a red herring used to sidestep the question of financial capital. (5) The solution the right wing proposes is one of mobilizing "America" in another war.

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