Friday, January 12, 2007

Love the Stranger

For we too, were once strangers in a strange land....

A Samuel Freedman article in the Jerusalem Post says that Jews should do more to develop solidarity with America's Latino population, rather than basking in the past glory of our participation in the Civil Rights struggle. Freedman does not propose that we abandon Black or Black/White race issues. Rather, he claims that
the leading moral cause today among domestic issues is the preservation of the United States as a society open to and embracing of immigration. In practical terms, this means creating a rational route to citizenship for the millions of illegal immigrants. They inhabit a netherworld, holding jobs that Americans cannot or will not take while having to pretend they do not exist. In the 21st century, the successor to Ralph Ellison's invisible man is now a landscaper named Raul or a maid named Flora.

In some ways, I think Freedman is too cavalier in describing the issue of Black civil rights as already having been won. But in general, I think the point is solid--if we are to preserve our culture's value on being allies of the oppressed and in solidarity with the stranger, we have to do more to express our support for the challenges faced by America's Latino population (especially, of course, by condemning the viciously dehumanizing rhetoric associated with undocumented workers).


Anonymous said...

I'm not exactly sure what you mean by "viciously dehumanizing rhetoric" - perhaps you should explain?

It's neither vicious or dehumanizing for Americans to want people who are here illegally to return to their country. Neither is it rhetoric. It's a point of law, the basis for American society.

I think Freedman is correct that we need a straightforward, legal way for some of these folks to become citizens and for others to work legally in this country. But it is for Americans to decide the laws of our land, not the illegals.

I don't accept, however, that there are jobs that Americans won't do. This is completely wrong.

True, there are distasteful jobs that, given the presence of a large pool of illegal workers, do not pay enough for Americans to want to perform them. But take away that illegal labor source and pay the true market value for those jobs and the applicants will come.

David Schraub said...

Alas, Marc, not all the rhetoric is centered around deportation. We've also had positive recollections of the Holocaust, calls for branding and mass executions, claims that giving illegal immigrant children critical government services creates the next generation of terrorists, and other similar claims. Obviously, many people aren't phrasing their arguments in such terms, but its become pervasive enough (and spread to enough elected officials) that I think it's something that needs to be called out more vigorously (and certainly something Jews must stridently oppose).

Anonymous said...

Certainly Jews (and all good people) should condemn dehumanization, but I agree with Marc that it doesn't make sense for Jewish people to be in favor of open borders because the alternative is "dehumanizing." In particular, the massive number of illegal immigrants keeps Congress from increasing the number of visas for legal immigrants, which creates a bias in favor of nearby third world workers (Latinos) and against those who would have to enter by plane (Asians). Unless you are prepared to argue for open borders that would allow all immigrants to enter, or for a United States of North America (to borrow crazy Lou Dobbs rhetoric) in which we simply secure Mexico's southern border instead of Texas's, calling rightwing immigration talk "dehumanizing" doesn't provide much of a substantial policy alternative.