Talking about "illegals" and "anchor babies"
By: Brendan Patrick Keane | Published Wednesday, August 4, 2010, 6:40 PM | Updated Sunday, August 4, 2013, 1:04 AM
had his green card by the time I was born, but he was an "illegal" before that for a brief stint while his visa was expired. That was long ago. My Mom
never had a problem with her immigration status and had all the right paper work. They both vote now, and hold American passports--not a bit less American than anyone.
I "confess" this, because I just watched Bill O'Reilly talk about "anchor babies," which are the children of immigrants (like me!). I don't quite fit the criteria for being an "anchor baby," but there was a minute there listening to him that I was looking over my shoulder for the INS.
O'Reilly likes to put the fear of something
Am I an anchor baby? I asked myself that question in a moment of existential panic. If I'm not an American, I asked myself in this flash, what could I be? Ireland won't have me, and frankly they don't need anymore people right now.
In the segment that got me panicked, O'Reilly talks about the Fourteenth Amendment which gives citizenship to people born within the United States no matter their parents' legal status.
Jesus, Mary and Joseph, I'm a fugitive I thought. It was just a feeling, however--emotional collateral damage from the possibility. No one likes to be slighted, however subtly. "Anchor baby" and "illegal" are not subtle.
I'm an American citizen, not a bit less than the patriot himself. That's why I don't want police asking for papers of citizenship. I'm a freedom-loving American, don't tread on me.
The Arizona law would have given police the added responsibility of border enforcement, which is a Federal duty. If an American citizen does not have his birth certificate on hand, that citizen would have to be treated just like a non-citizen who does not have their birth certificate on hand.
We have to protect others' rights to save our own. Not having to carry around proof of citizenship is a right we should keep.
That said, if a person is here illegally, and rapes someone, that needs to impact their chances of being let stay in America.
So-called "illegals" can not be deported en masse, however. It would be a humanitarian outrage that would shame the US forever.
Blanket green card giving is unfair, because there really are armed drug gangs at war with American law enforcement. A kind of amnesty, however, has to be extended to people in the media known as "illegals." They need a secure route to legitimacy without the illegality sword hanging over their head in the lead-up to filing an application. Not doing so only delays all sides.
I don't think of people pursuing the American Dream in America today as illegals. That's not fair to the history of this particular place, and because American politicans and businessmen have promoted border crossing of unregulated labor. The fault lies with the familiar cast of lovers: politicans and their corporate masters.
If I were to sum up my stance on "illegals" as a near "anchor baby" myself, I'd say everyone without the required paperwork, in America right now, is an "applicant." The messages are too mixed up. American businessmen are incentivizing illegal border crossings. Yet there is no pejorative word for them, and all the fault is put on people just doing what any poor person would do.
In strategic terms, immigration reformers can continue insulting people and criminalizing them and causing division or they can use the language of compromise now and early to get the deals made.
Division comes when an American hears someone call someone else a negative name like "illegal." Just for the cause of stopping the insult, Americans will impulsively defend unprocessed mass migration if they think a particular human being is being lumped-in and insulted or threatened. Calling people "illegals" only sends more Americans to the see-no-evil/hear-no-evil camp on this issue, because we all know and love people struggling to get-on in this land of immigrants without the right piece of paper that says its ok.
That's not to say "let 'em all in!" There is some kind of application process. Usually that happens outside the US, but it's got to happen inside for this generation. It's just the way it is.
If border-concerned citizens referred to "illegals" as "applicants" it would change the verbal dynamics of the debate. The more "illegals" is bandied about, the more it drives Americans into the do-nothing camp.
With a little more respectful language and careful implementation, undocumented "illegals" are transformed from undocumented criminals into documented "applicants." Applicants want to impress their neighbors in the new land they want to call home. Criminals are sociopathic from hopelessness. Hope is embodied in an application.
If we must call them "illegals" why not give the Americans that incentivized cheap labor a nick-name too?
The Americans that profit from "illegals" prefer unwinnable and uncompromising debates that cause intractable division so that nothing changes for a long time more.
The debate becomes uncompromising (never ending) when the language becomes undiplomatic. It's time for applications.