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The Real Immigration Double Standard

In a recent article posted at Pajamas Media, Ruben Navarrette Jr., an editor at the San Diego Union Tribune, offered an apologia for those “immigrants” who paraded in the streets of America on May Day while waving the Mexican flag.

There is an obvious problem with his argument. He conflates “immigrant” with “illegal immigrant.” These are two separate and distinct groups, both legally, politically and, frankly, also ethically. One group of immigrants has entered our country legally, thus demonstrating right from the beginning the intent to respect our laws. In so doing, implicitly announcing their intentions to honor those aspects of the American Dream that have been a beacon to untold millions of immigrants before them: liberty, self-reliance, equality before the law, equality of opportunity, and the promise of unlimited possibility for those willing to work hard and play by the rules.

The second group is here in constant and continuing violation of our laws. They demand “rights” that do not exist for them. They live in the shadows because their status does not permit them to exercise the rights they demand — obviously, if they already possessed such rights, they wouldn’t be asking for them. Navarrette also does not seem to understand the crux of the resentment toward illegal immigrants who wave Mexican flags in American streets. He notes:

This was a political gesture, like, say, a march for immigrants’ rights. Yet, some will insist, those who marched on Washington waving the Israeli flag were probably U.S. citizens and those who marched last week on May Day were, in all likelihood, immigrants. And that makes a difference. But wait. We know from media reports that many of the pro-immigrant marchers were U.S. citizens, including the U.S.-born children of illegal immigrants.

I don’t think most Americans have any real problem with other Americans who wave the banners of their former countries in celebrations here. Yet it is certainly understandable that Americans might resent the brazen sense of unearned entitlement demonstrated by those who live here in a state of illegality and who thrust the flags of their current nation (the only one in which they hold legal residency or citizenship) while demanding “rights” that are beyond their legal status in the first place.

I agree with everything Mr. Navarrette says about those immigrants who have followed the rules, waited their turn, and live in the United States in full compliance with our laws. But when he conflates legal immigrants with illegals under the general rubric of “immigrants,” he practices a pernicious form of dishonesty that poisons all his arguments and, indeed, the discussion itself. And, strangely enough, his position even shows great respect to those who legally emigrated into the country from Mexico, often waiting for years while patiently working their way through the endless convolutions of U.S. immigration procedures. To make the claim that such folks are no different — that they are all part of some vast, amorphous group of “immigrants” that includes all those who didn’t endure the same hardships — is to render their patience, their respect for the law, and the goals they have worked so hard to reach a sad joke. More fools them, for obeying the law.

Navarrette’s argument is profoundly immoral because it runs counter to our notions of equality, fair play, and rewarding those who do work hard and play by the rules.

If the guest you have invited to a party at your house shows up in native garb, you welcome him as your equal, your friend and fellow. But if the burglar who broke into your home wears the same foreign clothing and demands the right to live in your spare bedroom? Perhaps not so much.

William T. Quick is the founder, editor-in-chief, and publisher of Daily Pundit.