Gingrich has a War to Sell

16 08 2007

In a speech before a lilly white audience in Ames, Iowa, Former Speaker of the House Newt Gringrich proclaimed the war “here at home…is more violent and more dangerous to Americans than Iraq or Iran.” Most people would think old Newty was referring to some  group of active terrorist cells that were once dormant. Or perhaps, health insurance companies eager to gauge their customer base by denying them affordable care.

But actually Newty was really talking about undocumented immigrants. The impetus for the remarks were the August 4th assault in Newark, NJ, on four college bound teens in which three were killed execution-style and only one has survived. Three suspects now held in police custody. One of the suspects, Jose Carranza, 28, is a particularly vile human being. He was granted bail earlier this year after being charged with raping a child and assault.

Four young people, working hard, studying, doing the right things – three of them were killed, all four were shot in an execution style by somebody who should not have been in America in the first place.” Obviously, Gingrich has no compunction about conflating rampant and vile criminality with the presence of undocumented immigrants.

But curiously enough, Gingrich began his 10 minute speech by arguing that if UPS and FedEx can track millions of packages that are in transit everyday, then it is reasonable to expect a similar standard where the government verifies the legal status of anyone arrested for felony charge in its own database. Such an endeavor would be under the purview of the Department of Homeland Security, but the undertaking would be outsourced Secondly, any locality or municipality that does not comply with using the database will lose all federal aid immediately. To accomplish this Gingrich recommends the President call Congress in for a 3-day special session to pass a “simple law.”

Now, I am all for securing the border. I also suspect that there are better ways to use technology to reduce crime. But the Gingrich is obviously implying that the presence of undocumented immigrants alone pose a criminal threat to the security of all Americans, and that simply is not true. The heinous killings in Newark, NJ are not representative of the undocumented immigrants in living in this country.

For starters, immigrants generally are significantly less likely to commit violent crimes than the native-born Americans. Studies have also found this remains true even for second generation immigrants. Secondly, because we so often here the word “illegal” coupled with the word “immigration” many Americans not only presumed undocumented immigrants commit more crimes, but that there sheer presence in United States is a crime. Of course, thats not true either. Crossing the border illegally or overstaying your visa is not a crime. Its a violation of federal civil laws, not the criminal code. Hence, immigration should be discussed as a civil and administrative issue not a criminal one. Sadly, the restrictivist crowd apparently is not above muddying this distinction so that they may equate our immigration policy crisis with a terrorist and persistent criminal threat.

Gingrich also fails to acknowledge the contributions undocumented immigrants make to the U.S. economy. In a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed Pia Orrenius, a senior economist at the Dallas Federal Reserve Bank noted

At least eight million illegal immigrants work in the U.S. today and, perhaps surprisingly, the majority of them work on the books. According to data from the Mexican Migration Project (jointly run by Princeton University and the University of Guadalajara) on illegal immigrants from Mexico, 65% report having had payroll taxes withheld while working in the U.S. According to the SSA’s Earnings Suspense File, taxed wages of persons whose names and Social Security numbers do not match reached $586 billion at the start of fiscal year 2007, up from $463 billion in 2002. This revenue could substantially decrease with the implementation of new laws.

This means undocumented immigrants are actually putting into the system more than they are taking out. It just strikes me as common sense that the United States should find a way to offer them a path to citizenship, which should be the real focus of discussion, rather than casting them as the newest imagined national security threat.




One response

31 08 2007
Media Silence on the Jena 6 « In the Kut

[…] some reason, the national media is interested in other types of racially charged stories. Take for instance the story of the August 4th assault in Newark, NJ, on four college bound teens in which three were killed execution-style and only one survived. […]

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