A weekly look at SoCal life covering news, arts and culture, and more.
Hosted by John Rabe

Dylan Brody on immigration debate: Start by replacing the words 'illegal alien' with 'human being'

The Immigrant Identification Card of Adelina Valencia, an immigrant to the United States from Mexico, 1929.
The Immigrant Identification Card of Adelina Valencia, an immigrant to the United States from Mexico, 1929.
LA Public Library Shades of LA Collection

Listen to story

Download this story 2MB

Here’s the thing about shining cities on hills. People in the dark valleys are likely to be drawn to them.

The immigration debate rages on. No. That’s not right. The debaters rage. The debate doesn’t really do much of anything.

On the anti-immigrant side of the aisle, the arguments tend to be blatantly self-contradictory. Illegal aliens are lazy and they are taking away jobs from Americans. They are a drain on our social services and they are living in the shadows. They are uneducated and they seek to take advantage of our public school system.

On the pro-immigrant side, the arguments tend to be equally problematic in that they seem to be designed to pander to the anti-immigrant point of view. They say that illegal immigrants should have a path to citizenship. That illegals should be allowed to send their kids to our schools even though they don’t pay taxes, as long as we don’t include sales and property taxes in the assessment. That the jobs they take away from citizens are jobs that Americans won’t take for the pay offered.

I believe that both of these lines of thought are wrong-headed. I suggest that we start by replacing the words “illegal” and “illegal alien” with “human being.” This is important because once we begin divvying up humanity into groups it is easy to forget that things like ambition, family, love, work ethic and self-improvement are human characteristics that do not vary with skin tone or place of birth.

Human beings should be allowed to live where they choose. We should, all of us, be allowed to work where we choose and to earn a living wage regardless of birthplace. Every human being should have access to education, to healthcare ... and I will really go beyond the current American viewpoint and say shelter and food as well. Call me crazy, I think the pursuit of happiness cannot commence until the struggle for basic survival is behind us and I think we as a society are capable – if not yet willing – of putting that struggle behind us. All of us.

The immigration debate starts from a false premise of scarcity. As the finances of the nation consolidate in the hands of the very wealthy, or as I like to call them, the hoarding class, there is less to go around. Those in the hoarding class, fearing they might be blamed, use a fraction of their wealth to influence the media outlets and the politicians so that responsibility for the difficulties of the middle class is heaped on the poor, the immigrants, those who are least able or likely to find a voice. To paraphrase Peter Parker's Gentle Uncle Ben, “With great wealth comes great responsibility.” It is time for the nation that prides itself on great wealth to begin living up to its responsibility. Start welcoming and supporting those who wish to enter the shining city, or stop thinking of ourselves as a beacon of hope and freedom.

I, for one, am not willing to  take down the Statue of Liberty and put up a statue of a grumpy old guy yelling, "Get off my lawn!"

You can find Off-Ramp commentator Dylan Brody on his webpage, on Twitter, and on Facebook.