The Obama administration is deeply embarrassed by the legislators of Arizona. Assistant Secretary of State Michael Posner, in discussions with representatives from China (China!), cited the Arizona law as evidence of human-rights failures in the U.S. Doubling down, State Department spokesman P. J. Crowley agreed that the law could pose a “fundamental challenge to human rights around the world.”
At a joint press conference with Mexico’s president, Felipe Calderón, who recently described the Arizona law as “violating the human rights of all people,” President Obama delivered a message to “the American people and to the Mexican people” that his administration was taking a hard look at the “troubling” law. President Calderón has issued a travel advisory to Mexicans, warning them to avoid Arizona lest they be, well, what exactly? Grabbed, hooded, hustled into a dark cell, and never heard from again? Um, no, asked a few questions.
You might think President Obama would find a way to make that point – tactfully, of course – to our Mexican guest, rather than agreeing that the law amounts to “discrimination.” But no, as on so many other occasions on the world stage, President Obama finds himself in general agreement with our critics. If we embarrass him, the feeling is mutual.
Is the president aware that in Mexico, police are “required to demand that foreigners prove their legal presence in the country before attending to any issues”?
While the administration was fulminating about the horrific human-rights violation the Arizona law represents, Amnesty International was issuing a report about Mexico’s mistreatment of its own illegal migrants. “Migrants in Mexico are facing a major human rights crisis leaving them with virtually no access to justice, fearing reprisals and deportation if they complain of abuses,” said Rupert Knox, Mexico researcher at Amnesty International. “Persistent failure by the authorities to tackle abuses carried out against irregular migrants has made their journey through Mexico one of the most dangerous in the world.”
The migrants, who are usually attempting to make their way through Mexico to the United States, suffer kidnappings for ransom, robbery, and rape. Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission reports that nearly 10,000 were abducted over six months in 2009. Almost 50 percent of victims said that public officials were involved in their kidnapping. Amnesty estimates that six out of ten migrant women and girls experience sexual violence.
It suits Democrats to treat immigration as an issue of “race” and discrimination, because it permits them to frighten Hispanic Americans and secure that important voting bloc. But it’s a fiction. We have an immigration problem because the U.S. is an incredibly desirable place to live and work. Immigrants continue to enrich our society, not least because they are often more appreciative of our institutions and liberties than are the native born. If it were feasible, millions of people worldwide would come here. And millions wait patiently, sometimes for decades, for the chance to do so. Democrats worry ostentatiously about the unfairness of asking people to prove their legal status. What about the unfairness of giving an advantage to line jumpers over those who abide by the law and wait their turn?
President Obama has proposed that “undocumented” workers be required to go to the “back of the line” before being considered for citizenship. But how could that work? Those waiting abroad for green cards frequently wait for a decade or more. Where exactly would the end of the line be?
The U.S. needs many different kinds of legal immigrants — particularly those who are job creators. As Ben Wildavsky outlines in The Great Brain Race, “Between 1995 and 2005, 25 percent of all American engineering and technology companies were founded by immigrants — including half of those in Silicon Valley. Nearly one-quarter of all international patent applications filed from the United States in 2006 named foreign nationals as inventors. . . . While immigrants made up just 12 percent of workforce in 2000, they accounted for fully 47 percent of scientists and engineers with PhDs. . . . Two-thirds of those who entered science and engineering fields between 1995 and 2006 were, yes, immigrants.”
But our current immigration law makes it difficult for these Ph.D.s, trained with considerable investment from U.S. taxpayers, to remain in the United States. They are returning to their countries and taking their job-creating skills with them.
These are the sorts of immigration questions that serious leaders should consider — rather than demonizing the people of Arizona.
– Mona Charen is a nationally syndicated columnist. © 2010 Creators Syndicate, Inc.