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(The following post is one of my most recent in an ongoing dialogue with some rabid anti-immigrant commenters on The Denver Post comment board to a Tina Greigo column from a week and a half ago. This is the link to the current last page of comments: http://neighbors.denverpost.com/viewtopic.php?f=16&t=17865742&p=1927209&hilit=quote%3Dsteve+harvey#p1927209. I am engaging in this “debate” because I think it is important to publish as broadly as possible the contrast between the two opposing positions. The post I’ve reproduced here responded not only to the comment it quotes, but also to comments calling my position ethically and morally bankrupt. Please read it and repost it: I think it hits the nail right on the head.)
haloguy628 wrote: Here you are defending a criminal who sneaked into this country illegally, then obtained falsified passport, which he then used to become the enforcer of the law. Foreign criminal the lawman in the US. Unbelievable, but I am sure that cases like this one will become more prevalent as we seriously start dealing with this illegal invasion.

Actually, I’m not defending him at all (other than to sympathize with the desire to live in a country of greater opportunity, and to recognize that crimes committed for no other purpose than to do so are not the most heinous of crimes imaginable). Nowhere did I make any comment about how the law should treat him. My comments have been, and still are, directed at the prevalent attitude here toward those who have crossed our borders illegally, an attitude emphasizing the alleged horrors of this crime, and the alleged horrors of illegal immigration. That’s not a defense of the law-breaker, but rather an indictment of those who are exploiting it as an occasion for and justification of hatred.

That attitude isn’t rooted in some generic commitment to the law, any law, no matter what it is, because the same posters argue vociferously against those laws that they disagree with (e.g., healthcare reform). When it’s a law you approve of, no further discussion is required (or tolerated). When it’s a law you disapprove of, it’s the product of a socialist conspiracy that must not be tolerated. The end result is that nothing but your own blind ideology can ever be tolerated.

The attitude being expressed here by so many, this particular facet of your overarching right-wing ideology, is rooted in an in-group/out-group dogma, a fundamental belief in the rightness and moral purity of exclusion, a belief that has had many incarnations throughout our history (all of which we recognize as repugnant in retrospect), this being just the most recent one (identical, in fact, to the same nativist outcries during previous waves of immigration, voiced against the Chinese, Irish, Germans, Italians, and Eastern Europeans, in the same way and with the same attitude that it is being voiced here and now).

It may be (or may not be) that some degree of exclusion is a practical necessity. But exclusion never has to be exercised with such a complete lack of compassion and humanity. It is the pleasure you (plural) take in excluding, your zeal to morally condemn and denegrate those whom you are excluding, that is most appalling. If it is the case that we are forced by the practical realities of the world to exclude some from entry into this country, then we should do so reluctantly and with regret, not crowing with disdain for those we exclude, or for those who managed not to be excluded despite our attempts to do so.

As we confront this practical question, of who (if any) must be excluded, and who or how many we can afford not to exclude, we should confront it in the best-informed, most rational way possible, and, if with any bias at all, with a bias against exclusion and in favor of inclusion. We should desire to give opportunity to as many rather than as few as possible. And we should weigh our own interests against our values, recognizing that our relative good fortune in this world is not merely to be hoarded, but, to the extent possible, shared and extended to others.

If the two professional economic analyses I’ve linked to (the only professional economic analyses anyone here has yet linked to), which show that illegal immigration actually yields net economic and fiscal benefits to the state of Colorado, are not perfectly accurate (though I have no reason to believe that they aren’t), then at least we know that the truth is that the costs are exaggerated by some for polemical reasons: In reality, the costs, if, despite the analyses to the contrary are not negative, are at least not so enormous as ideologues arbitrarily insist, while the benefits to humanity are. This is the attitude and the predisposition with which we should confront the practical problem of immigration reform.

To me, there is nothing unethical or morally bankrupt about caring about humanity, even that segment of humanity that cannot legally immigrate to the United States but crosses our border anyway, seeking opportunity for themselves and their children. There is nothing ethically or morally bankrupt about decrying the visciousness of someone who posts “waaahhhh, waaaahhhh, we don’t care” in reference to a family torn apart by our indifferrence to the welfare of these humble, hardworking people. There is nothing ethically or morally bankrupt about expressing disgust at the poster who sincerely opined that we should execute them all (all 12 million of them), a post that received from those outraged by these opinions of mine one passing, parenthetical rebuke by one poster only (apparenty, calling for a massacre twice the size of the Holocaust isn’t nearly as morally repugnant as calling for a sense of humanity toward our undocumented population).

Yes, we have a different sense of morality. And as often as you want to highlight that fact, that’s how often I’ll state my pride in it, and my fervent hope that more of my fellow Americans will discover their lost or misplaced humanity, and share with me the just pride in being, or striving to be, a humane and rational people.

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