Friday, March 20, 2009

Still waiting for one valid argument...

I knew it.

This tedious issue of illegal immigration has moved on from just outraging stupid people on message boards.

I heard stupid people arguing about it in my workplace this morning, a bunch of city councilors said stupid things to the newspaper, and McMenemy did what everyone knew he would do and wrote a stupid editorial.

We're approaching a singularity of stupid.

Let me clarify something, in case anyone is under the impression that I'm just calling people stupid because I disagree with their point of view. That's not actually the case.

There's certainly a discussion to be had about illegal immigration and how best to deal with it. Smart, sensible people can have different opinions on the issue. It's a very complicated issue, after all.

But what we're seeing is not smart, sensible people making rational arguments against allowing illegal immigrants to have driver's licenses. If we were, this would be a wonderfully interesting topic to write about and discuss.

No, what we're seeing is a bunch of people putting forward the same fundamentally stupid non-argument. It boils down to saying "illegal is bad" and therefore anyone who's been labeled an "illegal immigrant" or the dehumanizing pseudo-noun "illegal" is bad and should be punished in petty and nonsensical ways.

This "argument" is actually perfectly encapsulated in McMenemy's editorial headline: "Rewarding people for breaking the law."

That's what it's all about. There's no argument about whether allowing illegal immigrants to have driver's licenses makes sense or not. No, it's all about denying them the vast reward of being allowed to legally drive because they're ILLEGALS!

Dean Tran makes the same basic argument in his whining:
"I strongly believe this is an issue of right and wrong," Tran wrote in an e-mail responding to questions Thursday. "We should not condone illegal activities as we do not teach our children to engage in illegal activities."
Incidentally, note that the Sentinel initiated the questioning here. They're the ones trying to drum up outrage. They went looking for quotes condemning DeMoura, and found themselves a number of willing patsies. Way to get used, guys!

Here's the old dumb non-argument again.
Ward 2 City Councilor Norman Boisvert strongly disagrees with DeMoura's stance.

"I must be stuck in the old school," Boisvert said. "I believe anyone who comes here illegally should not be rewarded with a drivers license."

Boisvert is not anti-immigrant, he said, but he wants the laws to be obeyed.
Yes, what a wonderful "reward" driver's licenses are. It's not like anyone needs a driver's license. They're just a nice luxury item, like golden back-scratchers.

Also, please note: anyone who feels the need to state that they're "not anti-immigrant" is most likely anti-immigrant. It's like the people who say "I'm not a racist" before saying something incredibly racist. Just saying it doesn't make it true.

Kevin Starr thinks illegal immigrants should have a way to become legal immigrants, and I agree with him. But what does he think about this specific driver's license issue?
Ward 4 City Councilor Kevin Starr disagrees with DeMoura's position.

"A driver's license is a privilege you have to earn," Star [Sic] said. "It's not a right."
Oh, Kevin. You're a nice guy, but that's a really stupid thing you said. You "earn" the privilege to drive by passing a driving test and paying a fee. There's nothing about that process that inherently disqualifies people who haven't gone through the proper immigration channels.

Believe it or not, even foreign tourists can drive legally as long as they have a valid license in their home country. Have they earned that privilege more than someone who's actually living here but has been labeled as "illegal"?

About the only one in the S&E article who gets it at all (besides DeMoura) is Jody Joseph:
Ward 6 City Councilor Jody Joseph is upset that Patrick has the committee to begin with, saying illegal immigrants should not be receiving any benefits from the state.

"I don't know how comfortable and easy we should make it for refugees and immigrants to come into the area if they are here illegally," Joseph said. "I don't understand the whole concept."

But Joseph is not opposed to DeMoura's stance on giving licenses to undocumented immigrants.

"The chief just wants to be able to identify all of them," he said.
Sure, the first part of that quote is stupid (way to attack refugees for no reason, asshole), but at least Joseph understands that this isn't about "rewarding" anyone, it's about pragmatism.

Chief DeMoura didn't suggest allowing illegal immigrants to have driver's licenses as a reward, it's for purely pragmatic purposes. Let's actually see what he says:
DeMoura defended his comments Thursday. He said giving driver's licenses to illegal immigrants is a good policy.

"It's a procedural step that makes sense," DeMoura said.

It would allow police to be able to identify those immigrants during traffic stops or other police encounters, he said.

And the proposal would also give the state a way to get a fingerprint from the immigrant, he said.

Most illegal immigrants are people whose temporary work visas have expired, DeMoura said.
Clearly, this isn't about some stupid "reward", it's about making the job of the police easier. People have to drive. Not driving is really not an option if you live in Central Massachusetts and hope to have a job, or do pretty much anything.

There just aren't a whole lot of other options. Not everyone has an endlessly supportive friend who can ferry them around all the time. Not everyone has access to public transportation (which sucks around here). Taxis cost more than many people can realistically afford, assuming they can even get one when they need one.

And even if there were viable alternatives, the reality of the situation is that people are driving anyway. Doing this illegally causes problems. So instead of stamping our feet and whining about it, DeMoura put forward an idea that's very simple and solves a lot of problems.

So, can anyone point to problems that DeMoura's suggestion creates? I mean besides pissing off people who "earned" the privilege of having a driver's license by virtue of their mom getting knocked up while living in the United States?

Here's the closest I could find to an argument against DeMoura's suggestion, and it doesn't actually have anything to do with driver's licenses, it's just whining that anyone dare to give a shit about what happens to illegal immigrants. Cue Dean Tran:
And Tran thinks Patrick ought to be doing more for the legal residents of the state before he deals with illegal immigrants.

"If Gov. Patrick wants to help the people of the Commonwealth, he should be focusing his energy on creating jobs and lowering taxes," Tran wrote. "His committee is another representation of bigger government and more tax dollars going to waste."
Blah blah blah, typical conservative nonsense. You know, Dean, it is possible to do more than one thing at a time.

Or should we wait until every single problem faced by naturalized citizens is solved before we do anything for illegal immigrants? Because if that's how you think government works, it's no wonder you think Rachel is some kind of political genius.

Finally, McMenemy does present an "argument" that slightly deviates from the prevalent "stop rewarding the wetbacks" argument. Here it is:
Again, no matter how well intentioned DeMoura is, we think his proposal, if enacted, would only encourage more illegal aliens to come into Massachusetts, where residents and business owners are already paying high taxes which go, in part, to educating and housing illegal immigrants.
This, like everything that comes out of McMenemy's brain, is only valid in the peculiar little fantasy world that he inhabits.

I'll just discard outright the totally-unsupported-by-facts assertion that this would somehow turn Massachusetts into some sort of vacation resort for illegal immigrants. It's nonsense.

Also, please note that illegal immigrants pay less in taxes than citizens, but they also use less in services. Depending on who you listen to, they either use slightly more than they pay or pay slightly more than they use, but either way it pretty much comes out as a wash.

Sure, schooling illegal immigrants costs money, but illegal immigrants also pay into Social Security without ever getting any benefits from it. Sales tax hits everyone, of course. It's not a simple issue, unless you just choose to ignore all the complexities.

As for our "high taxes," Massachusetts was ranked 23rd in the country in 2008 for "tax burden." That puts us squarely in the middle. Of course, any tax is high in McMenemy's eyes.

But that's beside the point.

The point is, if you have a valid argument against allowing illegal immigrants to have driver's licenses, go ahead and make it. But base it on the real world, not some imaginary land where driver's licenses are considered "rewards" and a police chief expressing a desire to do one very simple thing to make the job of the police easier is some deep moral outrage.

In other words, disagree with DeMoura all you want, but please stop being so fucking stupid about it.