Monday, March 20, 2017

Border Stories

After one too many jarring electric wake-up calls, I picked up a clock radio, and now I am reminded of the loathsome fact that I need to be out of bed at far too early for my tastes by the disembodied voices of NPR correspondents and their subjects. And often, as part of that morning routine, there is a story about immigration, typically illegal immigration from Latin America.

Immigration stories on NPR have a certain sameness about them after a while, as they fall into a predictable pattern, being sympathetic treatments of the migrants and their plight, while making sure they talked to a token cranky Gringo (who dutifully makes the expected complaints).

While I appreciate the newsworthiness of these stories, they do become stale after the fiftieth time you hear about some hardworking Mexican being forcibly returned to a life of poverty, some Guatemalan parents being shipped back home while their children look for a place to stay, or some small-town bumpkin calling for the government to round 'em all up an' ship 'em all back to where they came from, usually in the comically vain hope that this will mean that the local unpaid labor market will suddenly raise wages to upper-middle-class levels again. But more importantly, they seek to boil the debate down to the effects on a set of carefully chosen individuals, who are intended to represent much larger groups of people. Groups that are large enough that they're not as monolithic as they're made out to be.

What I'd like to see are reasoned debates on some of the central issues surrounding immigration. One that's touched on from time to time is the human rights issue. Seems reasonable enough. It seems needlessly cruel to say that people in marginal areas have no right to go a wherever they can find opportunities. But there's always at least one flip side, and in this case, that's the right of a nation to control its borders, and decide who its willing to let in, and who stays out. These two concepts are, for the most part, mutually exclusive. So deciding which one of these we consider to be more important to us is going to be a major part of a broader plan going forward. Surely, news outlets can dig up specialists on human rights and national sovereignty to both depersonalize and contextualize that aspect of the debate for us?

Will it solve the whole debate for us? Of course not. There are other considerations to be taken into account, and it would be good to know those as well. But we'll have more to go on than we have now, and can start to see the bigger picture.

No comments: