The whole world thinks it has a right to live in the United States
It is not enough to pass a law; you have to enforce it. No enforcement, effectively, no law. Moreover, if you allow millions of people to violate your "law" they will not only become confident of their chances of getting away with it, they will rapidly come to believe that they're not getting away with anything. "Illegal" immigration to the US has segued, for the entire world, from temptation to human right. Thus millions of illegal immigrants took to America's streets in April, utterly fearless of apprehension, indignantly demanding their "rights". In an acknowledgement that unenforced laws aren't really laws at all, PC Americans now shy from the unwelcoming term "illegal immigrant", preferring the benign "undocumented worker". But chances are the worker does have documents. They're just fake.
This disappearing ink phenomenon in relation to immigration law - what immigration law? - helps to explain why the US will soon have no choice but to issue an amnesty, de facto or otherwise, to its 12 million gate crashers, and to the millions more who follow. Britain will have to do likewise, even with its comparatively negligible half million visitors-for-life. Sending them all back home became a logistical impossibility long ago. When you let a law slide, it evaporates. You can't shove the undocumented genie back into the bottle.
Secondly, I was bemused to read this week that Mexico has an accelerating immigration problem. Many of the South and Central Americans teeming across its border with Guatemala are heading for the US. But a fair number are staying on in Mexico, where they take "the jobs Mexicans don't want". So many Mexicans have left for more lucrative jobs in el Norte that only the Guatemalans will pick mangoes in the baking sun for a few lousy pesos.
Furthermore, foreigners ploughing into Mexico are subject to the same fierce local resentment that brought outraged Mexicans out on America's streets in April. The coordinator of the government-funded humanitarian organisation Grupo Beta declared, "This society does not see migrants as human beings, it sees them as criminals." I was startled to learn that Mexico's immigration law is far more stringent than America's, even more stringent than the harsher laws now in limbo in the US Congress, over which Mexican president Vicente Fox has been so alarmed.
This is what I mean about double standards. The very same national populations that blithely regard the US as an extension of their own backyard get very stroppy indeed when foreigners start regarding their own countries with the same presumption.
Admittedly, this is a double standard in which American mythology has been complicit. Forever talking up the "melting pot" and our proud tradition as a "nation of immigrants", US politicians can't sabre-rattle over stricter immigration policies without sounding like hypocrites. The rest of the world doesn't believe the US has the right to police its own borders; raised on all that "huddled masses yearning to be free" folderol, Americans don't either. In short, the US has been helplessly victimised by its own bullshit.
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