Mexicans and Other Convenient Scapegoats
by Ari Armstrong, May 16, 2005
It's tricky to generalize about the people of an entire nation. That said, Mexicans tend to be a warm and generous people. It is unfortunate that governance in Mexico is crippled by corruption, which limits the economic prosperity of the nation and, by extension, our own economic prosperity (because Mexico is an important trading partner for us). Nevertheless, on the whole we are quite fortunate to have Mexico as a southern neighbor. It's relatively stable, and liberty is protected there to a significant degree. Mexico is also an important contributor to U.S. culture.
Mexicans are also convenient scapegoats for some segments of U.S. society. They tend to have a little richer complexion on average, an irrelevant difference that, for the weak minded, lends itself to an "us versus them" mentality. Those ignorant of economics fantasize that the U.S. is "losing" jobs to Mexico. That might be true of certain jobs, but on net we gain from free trade.
The much greater problem is that, because the U.S. government violates the rights of its own citizens by limiting their freedom to contract, quite a few Mexicans immigrate to the U.S. illegally. The problem is the illegality, not the immigration. Mexicans who work in the U.S. contribute to their own prosperity and ours. But U.S. anti-immigration laws hurt both Mexicans and us. Those laws lead to dangerous smuggling of immigrants, which often results in the death of peaceable people. The U.S. should simply allow every Mexican with a job offer to come here legally with a temporary work visa. Then we could control the border. Unjust U.S. law creates smuggling routes for illegal immigrants, and these smuggling routes can also be used to smuggle terrorists and their weapons. So U.S. border policy is both homicidal and, potentially, suicidal. We could dry up those smuggling routes in a single day simply by allowing all peaceable immigrants to legally cross the border in a controlled manner. Then we could use our limited police resources to go after those who threaten us. But illegal immigrants do not deserve the blame for problems created by stupid U.S. politicians.
A May 11 story published by the Rocky Mountain News, written by April Washington And Sarah Langbein, is titled "Slaying suspect worked at Hickenlooper eatery." This is the sort of story that strikes fear into peaceable but illegal immigrants and their supporters. The story reads, "A man suspected in the killing of a cop and the target of a massive manhunt worked with false documentation at the Cherry Cricket, a restaurant co- owned by Mayor John Hickenlooper, police said Tuesday. Raul Garcia-Gomez, 19, an illegal immigrant, failed to show up for work Monday morning at the restaurant in the Cherry Creek retail district after the fatal shooting of police Detective Donald Young and the wounding of Detective John Bishop early Sunday morning. Lee Driscoll, the mayor's business partner, said Tuesday that the company learned last month that Garcia-Gomez provided the restaurant with two forms of identification, but the Social Security number he provided turned out to be false... U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo on Tuesday blasted the Hickenlooper administration's handling of the case. The Littleton Republican said U.S. immigration officials should have been contacted after each of three traffic citations issued to Garcia-Gomez in Denver because police could not confirm his legal status."
The News story is appropriate journalism, though it's sensationalized a bit because the restaurant happens to be owned by the mayor (whose restaurants are now run by trusts so as to avoid conflicts of interest). But, to those already convinced Mexican immigrants are harming America, the story contributes to anti-immigrant fear mongering.
Obviously, in order to completely eliminate the possibility of any immigrant or tourist committing a crime within the U.S., we'd have to shut out all immigrants from all countries. But that would be stupid. We benefit enormously from immigration and tourism. The fact that an illegal Mexican immigrant murdered a police officer does not imply that illegal Mexican immigrants generally are bad or to be feared. Similarly, the fact that some U.S.-born citizens commit crimes does not imply that U.S. born citizens generally are bad or to be feared. The real issue is that Garcia-Gomez (allegedly) chose to become a cold-blooded cop killer, not that he immigrated illegally.
Here's what an e-mail floating around says, "Defend Colorado Now will be at this rally protesting Denver's Sanctuary City Policy. [Name deleted] will be one of the featured speakers asking Mayor Hickenlooper to repeal Mayor Webb's Sanctuary Policy - Executive Order #116. Bring a sign and a flag and do this in honor of Officer Don Young, who was murdered in cold blood by illegal alien Raul Garcia-Gomez, who shouldn't have been here in the first place and 'was just doing the job Americans won't do'."
In other words, the e-mail claims that, because of the crime of a single individual, an entire group of people should be targeted. This is collectivism, pure and simple. Within collectivism, an entire group is blamed for the acts of a single individual. The implication of the e-mail is that all illegal immigrants should be hunted down and forcibly removed from the country. The rights of them and their employers to contract for work be damned. American prosperity be damned. What should happen is that U.S. law should be changed so that immigrants without a criminal record can stay and work here legally. Of course, this would not guarantee that no immigrant would commit a crime. But it's wrong to violate the rights of millions of people (both Mexicans and U.S. citizens) because some individual might commit a crime. Prior restraint based on collective guilt, taken to its logical conclusion, is a recipe for totalitarianism.
So now that the Tancredo right is seeing red and the left is feeling superior, I'm going to keep the theme but change the example.
The Violence Policy Center (VPC) lists thirteen alleged crimes that involved a .50 caliber rifle. Most of these examples involved illegal possession or sale. Most of the rest involved only the minor involvement of a .50 caliber rifle. The VPC adheres to the Michael Moore school of journalism: omit relevant facts and distort other facts to skew the truth. Here's just one example. VPC reviews, "Branch Davidian cult members at a compound in Waco, Texas, fired 50 caliber sniper rifles at federal ATF agents during their initial gun battle on February 28, 1993. The weapons' ability to penetrate tactical vehicles prompted the agency to request military armored vehicles to give agents adequate protection from the 50 caliber rifles and other more powerful weapons the Branch Davidians might have had. Four ATF agents were killed. ('Weaponry: .50 Caliber Rifle Crime,' GAO Office of Special Investigations letter, August 4, 1999)"
However, as David Kopel argues in No More Wacos, federal agents completely mishandled that case and pushed the situation to violence. John Lott writes of the .50 caliber rifle, "The bottom line is that only one person in the U.S. has been killed with such a gun, and even that one alleged case is debated... The worst abuse that 60 Minutes [in a segment about the rifle] focused on was the Branch Davidians in Waco in 1993 having a 50-caliber gun. Yet, no one was harmed with the gun, and the Davidians surely had many other weapons."
If one Mexican immigrant commits a crime, lash out against all Mexican immigrants. If one owner of a .50 caliber rifle commits a crime, lash out against all owners of .50 caliber rifles. The logic, and the bigotry and collectivism behind it, are precisely the same.
Ignore the fact that the overwhelming majority of Mexican immigrants are great people who are peaceful and productive. Ignore the fact that practically every owner of a .50 caliber rifle is a responsible and civically engaged member of his or her community who contributes to the security of the nation. The innocent must be punished along with the guilty. The Mexicans must be rounded up by armed agents, locked in cages, and shipped back to Mexico. Owners of .50 caliber rifles must be more heavily taxed, registered, and monitored by armed federal agents. The innocent must be punished for the crimes of the few.
Forget the fact that U.S.-born citizens also commit crimes. Forget the fact that many other weapons, including ropes, cars, knives, and water, are used more frequently in the commission of a crime than the .50 caliber rifle. It's us versus them. Demonize the Mexicans. Demonize the gun owners. Those people are the Evil Ones, and they must be stopped. The ends justify the means! Spin it! Coerce it! Blame it! Arrest it! Snuff it out!
Innocence and individual rights matter not to the witch hunters. But I have friends who are Mexicans. And I have friends who own .50 caliber rifles and other guns. They are some of the best people I've ever met. And, by God, I'm not going to stand by while ignorant, hysterical fools attack their character and seek to punish them for the crimes of others. Not on my watch.