May 20, 2007

HAVE YOU SEEN YOUR MOTHER, BABY, STANDING IN THE SHADOWS? Mark Steyn looks at the no-back-taxes provision in the immigration bill and observes:

Whenever folks use this “living in the shadows” line, they assume that these 12-20-30 million people all have a burning desire to move out of the shadows and live under the klieg lights of officialdom. But, in fact, if you wanted to construct the perfect arrangement for modern life, it would be to acquire:

a) just enough of an official identity to be able to function – open bank accounts, etc – and to access free education and health care; but

b) not enough of an official identity to attract the attentions of the IRS and the other less bountiful agencies of the state.

The present “undocumented” network structures provide this. For these Z visas to “work” (in Washington terms), they have to be attractive enough to draw sufficient numbers out of “the shadows”. Right now, “living in the shadows” is a pretty good deal. Somerset Maugham famously called Monte Carlo a sunny place full of shady people. Undocumented America is a shady place full of sunny people.

Instead of attempting to draw the undocumented out of the shadows, it might be fairer to allow the rest of us to “live in the shadows”, too. My suggestion is that, on the day this bill comes into effect, all 300 million US citizens and legal residents should apply for a Z visa.

At a more serious level, however, this captures the disconnect between Washington officialdom’s view of citizenship, and the view held by actual citizens, something that I think is at the core of the immigration debate. More than hostility to illegal immigrants, I think a lot of the backlash is driven by the sense that Washington insiders don’t really value what ordinary law-abiding people do by way of living their lives and, you know, abiding by the law. A voter scorned, and all that . . . .

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