Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Killing Spree

Last year, I blogged, appalled, on a quote from a good American citizen who said that we should "just shoot" any illegal immigrants we find crossing the border. Then I got a comment from a charming fellow who told me that "We could shoot them all in the back of the head and line huge pits with their bodies and their is no harm-no foul. These people don't have a right to breathe my air let alone to be treated 'humanely.'"

And today, US Senator Tom Coburn joined the fun, asking why agents couldn't just shoot people fleeing them at the border, even if they're unarmed, even if they pose no threat. Ummm....because that'd be murder? But don't let that stop you. People say rap music encourages violence? Let's start with the US Senate!

Awwww Fuck! Chuck's on a killing spree again
With guillotines for men
I walk around town with a frown on my face
Fuck the whole world, fixin' to catch a murder case
The murder rate

May increase if your caught up in the world
While it's dyin', I guarentee your fryin' cause I am
On the verge of knockin' muthafuckas out for no reason
Once I get down there'll be no breathin' it seems when
Muthafuckas wanna calm down, put his palm down
Seems I gots to lay the law down
Now its on pow what you to do? I'm askin' you

Step to face I'll break your ass in two, bastard you
Rather swim in some fuckin' hot tar
Before you fuck wit Willie D cause what I got for
Your ass will make ya shit your meal
Cause it's die muthafuckas, die muthafuckas still.

--"Still," Geto Boys.


PG said...

Not to freak you out completely, but I do sometimes argue visas-for-all-seekers* to those who claim that they're worried about security, on the ground that anyone who tries to sneak into the U.S. when he would be able to get a visa easily is sneaking for no good reason, and then it would be OK to shoot first and ask questions later.

* This is different from "open borders." We still would have a secured border and crossers would be required to show their paperwork to enter the country (and potentially be fingerprinted, etc.). The difference would be that American consulates all over the world would become completely different in their immigration visa processing. Instead of routinely denying visas to almost all applicants, the government would grant visas to all applicants who are not on a government watchlist for terrorism and other crimes. We wouldn't require that they show current income, or ability to get a job, or anything else. Illiterate Mexican farmer? come on in!

At the point where we have made all the benign immigrants into legal immigrants, we can assume that all illegal immigrants -- those entering without the U.S. embassy's stamp, especially those covertly using the desert routes that have been abandoned by the now-legal immigrants who can take safe roads openly -- probably are security threats of some sort, and treat them far more severely.

PG said...

Oh, and having read the link, David, I think you're being slightly unfair to Coburn. He was talking specifically about drug traffickers, not about a general "people." I don't think traffickers need to be killed en masse, but they're a bit different from a family just trying to get a job in a South Dakota meatpacking plant. Drug traffickers break not only the law against undocumented border crossing, but also laws that, despite their insane consequences, were originally intended to protect Americans from dangerous narcotics. The goods carried by drug traffickers will have a pernicious effect on individuals and communities, often poor ones that are least able to cope with the burden. If the drug traffickers successfully unload their goods in the U.S., the arrests will be made instead of the drug users.

Now, Coburn was speaking in a situation where we could ascertain that the guy was definitely drug traffickers (even before having shot him and found drugs on him, because he was a visaholder who could enter the U.S. freely while he was cooperating with investigators, so they knew he was a past trafficker and as a visaholder had no reason to run from Border Patrol unless he was doing something illegal). In the real world, a policy that OKs assaulting all fleeing drug traffickers doesn't make sense because most often, we don't know ahead of time for sure whether someone is a drug trafficker.

David Schraub said...

1) Your immigration policy is the same as mine, PG, for the same reasons. We're right on the same page.

2) Shooting unarmed, unthreatening drug dealers is still murder--for good reason. And in most cases we don't know if someone is running because they're a drug trafficker or not. So if Coburn means to generalize his principle at all, he's wondering why we can't do mass murder of criminal suspects, and if he isn't generalizing, he's still asking why we can't murder this particular dude. This whole trend to make the drug-war into a constitutional super-amendment is rather annoying, and it doesn't really obviate the point that Coburn likes the idea of gunning unarmed people (drug traffickers...maybe) down.

3) I go to the trouble of putting three stanzas of a Geto Boys song in my post, and I don't get any props at all? Has nobody seen "Office Space"?

Anonymous said...

Can I just point out to both of you that the idea that "we give VISA to all, therefore people who enter illegally are threats" logic is wrong, just wrong, plainly stupidly obviously wrong?

In the minute since I finished reading your posts, I've thought of three pretty serious assumptions such a policy makes. I don't know if your serious that we could shoot these people, but even the idea that we should punish them harshly and treat them (in the media and in the system) as security threats is pretty disturbing.

1st, and probably most egregious, it assumes all people attempting to enter the United States, legally or no, are familiar with US immigration policy. This is manifestly not the case. Many people could have perfectly benign reasons to enter the country but simply be unaware that they could easily enter the United States through legal means.

2nd, it assumes that whatever reason they have for entering is not time-sensitive. Many seasonal employment opportunities that migrants seek are time-sensitive. Family issues can be too. I don't know how long the magic all-in VISA system would take to process people's applications, but it assumes they have the luxury of waiting for that to happen.

3rd, it assumes there is an appropriate and timely recourse for people who are, for whatever reason, denied VISAs. Perhaps someone has a criminal record that gets them denied. Maybe their on a watchlist due to political activity their government did not approve of, which was labeled as extremist/terrorist (I know, imagine that happening!) What do these people do if they have a pressing reason to come to the USA, but no way to do so legally? Maybe we should keep these people out, or screen them throughly, or be suspicious of them. But we should not assume we can open fire on them. I'll go David one further, that shooting unarmed, unthreatening people with ties to terrorism is still plainly immoral. If you disagree, then I guess the next person who sees Kissinger can plug him between the eyes, even if he's just walking his dog.

Under no circumstances are we going to improve this situation by further militarizing the border, even if we dress it up in liberal clothes. This whole humane militarism thing totally freaks me out.

PG said...

I wasn't dressing it up in liberal clothes; I was putting forward the policy that people who are sincere about securing the border (rather than being sincere about stopping immigration) should champion.

"shooting unarmed, unthreatening people with ties to terrorism is still plainly immoral"

If you think someone who enters this country in order to orchestrate and/or participate in terrorism is "unthreatening," you clearly have a different concept of that term than I do. If someone is sneaking into the U.S. so he can put sarin gas in the subway system I ride every day, he's a threat. The fact that he is not armed at the moment he crosses the border does not change that fact. If Kissinger is walking his dog on his way to planning a bombing of my skyscraper, hell yes I'm ready to plug him between the eyes if all normal procedures for stopping him don't work. If someone is sneaking through the desert on his way to do the same, same goes.

You seem to be starting from the so-liberal-as-to-be-called-leftist view that there is a right of free passage over national borders. I recognize no such right. Therefore, anyone who enters can be reasonably expected to submit to the procedures for doing so.

"Many people could have perfectly benign reasons to enter the country but simply be unaware that they could easily enter the United States through legal means."

If you can point out to me an actual adult person who has no idea why it is that he has to cross through the desert when there are perfectly well-maintained roads on which loads of other people are crossing, please do, as we certainly need to ensure that such a person receives the necessary clue/ mental health assistance. Anyone who is unsophisticated about visas who wants to go over the border naturally would take the easiest route; when told that he cannot take that route because he needs a visa and is pointed to the nearest office, he will cease to be unsophisticated.

I have a lot of family in India, and an aunt whose latest recurrence of cancer may be terminal. (I took off a semester from school last year so I could help take care of her.) I would not attempt to visit her unlawfully. The fact that visiting some of my family requires getting on a plane and going to another continent, rather than over a land border, should make no difference in the analysis.

Agricultural work is hardly a surprise; strawberries have to be picked at about the same time every year. It's not an emergency; it's an event for which one can plan. Yes, the first time one comes to the U.S. to do the work, one would need to wait to get a visa, but many workers are repeat players. Having once been ID'ed and cleared, they would be able to return frequently.

I honestly don't get the whole "what do people do if they have a pressing reason to come to the USA?" What do I do if I have a pressing reason to get on a commercial flight and go to India, but because I was at an Iraq war protest, I'm on a government watchlist and they won't let me board? Should I rush the plane and hijack it, because GODDAMMIT I NEED TO GO TO INDIA? Should we abandon airline security measures because they're keeping me from my family, and of course my individual needs are always more important than policies designed to protect millions of people?

I can't think of a life-or-death situation (think parallel to the defense of necessity) where someone needs to cross the border and is not allowed to. People come to the U.S. frequently because they have infants with terrible illnesses that cannot be treated in a developing country. We don't seem to have much trouble letting such people in because they are no threat (you'd have to be pretty fucked up -- and also lucky -- to find an infant with a rare disorder so you could slip into the U.S. and wreak havoc).

Stentor said...

I don't think "he was just talking about drug traffickers" improves Coburn's position much. Drug charges, including trafficking, are thrown around in an appallingly unrestrained fashion in the immigration system.