The Weirdness of Illegal Immigration

Set aside for a moment all the controversies over illegal immigration—the wall, deportation, amnesty, Donald J. Trump, “comprehensive immigration reform,” etc. Instead, contemplate what happens in a social, cultural, and economic context when several million immigrants arrive from one of the poorest areas in the world (e.g., Oaxaca) to one of the most affluent (e.g., California). For guidance, think not of Jorge Ramos, but of the premodern/postmodern collision that is occurring in Germany, Austria, and Denmark.

The first casualty is the law. I am not referring to the collapse of federal immigration enforcement, but rather the ripples that must follow from it. When someone ignores a federal statute, then it is naturally easy to flout more. In Los Angeles, half the traffic accidents are hit-and-run collisions. I can attest first-hand that running from an accident or abandoning a wrecked vehicle is certainly a common occurrence in rural California. Last night on a rural road, a driver behind me (intoxicated? Malicious? Crazy?) apparently tried to rear-end me, then turned off his lights, sped up, and at the next stop sign pulled over swearing out the window in Spanish. In this age and in these environs, why would one call a sheriff for a minor everyday occurrence like that? The point is simply that when there is no federal law, no one has any idea how several million arrive in the U.S., much less what exactly they were doing before their illegal arrival. I note the latter consideration, because legal immigration does require some sort of personal history, and at the airport I am always asked by U.S Customs what exactly I was doing in Greece or Germany that prompted my trip.

Out here almost all laws concerning the licensing and vaccination of dogs seem to have simply disappeared. No one can walk or ride a bicycle along these rural roads without being attacked by hounds that are unlicensed and not vaccinated—and that have no ID or indeed owners that step forward to claim ownership once the victim is bleeding. The Bloomberg Rule reigns (i.e., if you can’t keep snow off the street, deplore global warming or cosmic war): we talk of dreamers because we have not a clue how to ensure that hundreds of thousands of pets are registered and given rabies shots. No one suggests that once one breaks the law of his adopted home, and continues to do so through false affidavits, aliases, and fraudulent documents, then the law itself become an abstraction, useful as a shelter, expendable if an inconvenience. Again, one assumes that if a citizen were to do that, he would face a felony indictment.

I don’t think we have many zoning laws left, at least for particular constituencies. Yesterday, in field research for this essay, I drove in a 10-mile radius and counted the percentages of rural dwellings that had some sort of living quarters haphazardly attached—garages, Winnebagos, sheds, trailers, etc. Seven out of ten residences had multiple dwellings, and I counted an average of six cars at each residence—in a manner that 30 years ago would have quickly earned a visit from a county zoning officer (or would today, if county officials thought the violator would pay quickly the fine). Noncompliance has apparently become a cultural and economic necessity—especially with bigger fish to fry (such as the SWAT-team assault ¼ miles away last month on a den of supposed prostitution and drug sales, camouflaged in a barbed-wire enclosure in an orchard no less). That racket was certainly no “act of love.” Jeb Bush, where are you? The arrested were not on their way to have ice cream when the SWAT team pounced. Barack, where are you?