Tancredo Protest at UNC; Denver Schooling on Scriptures

Serendipity. Me and Tancredo, of all people.
Start here: The press has been buzzing today about former Colorado congressman and US presidential candidate, Tom Tancredo, having to cut a speech short yesterday at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill due to protesters on his stance toward illegal/unauthorized immigration to the US. With regard to state universities, Tancredo is opposed to granting in-state college tuition to children whose parents came to the US outside of legal immigration procedures.
I am not a fan of Tancredo or his policies. The time has come in this country for us to deal once and for all with an issue we have been ignoring for decades, with humanity and compassion for those who have escaped poverty and taken on service jobs most Americans would not. With regard to children of illegal immigrants, my colleagues Sandra Porter and Isis have spoken eloquently and passionately about a solution: the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act (DREAM) Act. As Isis responded to a commenter:

For many who immigrate to the US, coming here isn’t like moving from the city to the suburbs to get an extra garage bay and a bigger backyard. They flee disease and hunger. They flee oppressive governments. The flee outrageous infant mortality. And they often flee with an idea of what the American dream really means, wanting to work to obtain it. In their native countries there’d be no opportunity for education. To ask them to return home to “fight for it their” would be akin to asking them to return home to die.

However, I am disappointed that student protesters created a scene at UNC yesterday, involving broad pepper spray and Taser threats, that made immigration reform supporters appear as intolerant as the Tancredo camp (higher ed reporter Eric Ferreri posted Tancredo’s official comments here at his Campus Notes blog.)
I would’ve preferred a debate and engagement with Tancredo such as that which occurred at the University of Denver with Colorado’s first Black Speaker of the State House, Terrance Carroll.

Carroll 5280 April 2009 515px.jpg
Turns out that earlier in the day, I had been leafing through 5280, the city mag from my old high-country stompin’ grounds. (An aside to my colleagues heading out to Denver this weekend for the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR): pick up a copy of 5280 and use their website for food and drink recs – or e-mail me.).
Therein was a great article on Carroll (click here or on photo above) beginning with a story of his rebuttal to Tancredo’s invocation of the Bible to support immigration intolerance:

Yes, he [Carroll] says, our immigration system is broken, but the nation and Colorado still must confront the demand for low-skill, low-wage workers, the lack of native-born citizens who are willing to fill the jobs, and our inflexible labor laws. “Most importantly,” he says, restricting immigration is “a direct challenge to the moral, cultural, and social fiber of this nation and of this state.”
Later in the evening, once the floor has been opened to questions, an audience member asks what role faith should play in the immigration debate. Tancredo, an evangelical Presbyterian, says, “I believe that I have a responsibility both to the oath of office I take and to my conscience…. That’s my job, and that’s what I need to do, and that’s what I have to do to face my Maker. And I’m comfortable with that…. But nowhere in the Bible can you find me anything that says, ‘Protect the people who’ve violated the law of your land by coming in.’ ”
Carroll, who happens to be a Baptist minister, excitedly raises his hand. “Can I respond to that?” he asks. “Leviticus 19:33 and 34 clearly state that the strangers who live among your land, do not mistreat them, do not oppress them. Treat them as if they are citizens and native born of your land.”
The audience erupts with cheers. [Denver Mayor John] Hickenlooper and [former Governor Bill] Owens laugh out loud at the young upstart’s sudden outburst. “And then it goes on to say, ‘You were aliens in Egypt, so love them as you love yourself,'” Carroll continues. “So there’s a very clear biblical mandate for how we deal with the strangers among us that goes beyond women and children. What it does say–without making the distinction between illegal and legal aliens–it says treat them as if they’re native born. If you’re going to use the Scriptures as a basis, you have to seriously deal with the issue and address it and not work your way around it.”


4 thoughts on “Tancredo Protest at UNC; Denver Schooling on Scriptures

  1. I guess the questions would seem to be:
    1) What kinds of immigration policies should we have?
    2) What should we expect of people in the US?
    I think 1) is important because much of the debate seems to imply that immigration policy should be essentially ignored, which seems like the worst of the possible options. If immigration policy isn’t useful – if we have the resources and infrastructure to deal with the people who will come – then getting rid of it might be best, though I don’t think many people seem to think so. If you don’t have the resources to take care of all the people who are likely to show up, then you have to have a policy to select who you would prefer. Ignoring that policy effectively keeps out people who might do you more good in favor of those less likely to do so. If you make a distinction between legal and illegal immigration, then you need to explain what the laws should be (or why they are correct as is), and conversely, if there should be no difference between legal and illegal immigrants, then one ought to explain why that distinction shouldn’t exist, or perhaps why we don’t need an immigration policy.
    The other question is more broad. Most of the immigrants who built the US were legal. Did their reasons for coming differ from those who were not? I assume that lots of people come for economic reasons, and still some of them helped to build the freedoms we partake in. If the duties of someone who lives here aren’t determined by legal status, what should they be? What should we expect of ourselves and others to contribute? A lot of what we (I?) see as the duty of people in a country is participation in the government, but for lots of people (immigrants, some people who committed crimes) that isn’t possible. Is participation in the economic system sufficient?
    I don’t really like eliding the distinction between legal and illegal immigration, because at least part of our duty in living here is to help sustain the government that makes it possible for us to have the economic and political freedom we have. I also think that ignoring the distinction means that you keep out highly educated immigrants in favor or not-so-highly educated immigrants, which doesn’t seem to benefit the country so much. (If you have an immigration policy, and ignore it, you select people who are either really desperate or who are willing to ignore your laws, which might not be so good in the long run.) I think the labor problem is partly because people who grew up here aren’t willing to work as hard, but also because employers aren’t willing to pay enough for people to do those jobs. If the economic system is an equilibrium (people’s wages go down when lots of people can do something and go up when few can or do) and when the equilibrium favors employees, employers can simply hire people from elsewhere, that seems to render the economic system in the US a lose-lose proposition for people who work here. Finally, creating a class whose main jobs is to act as cheap labor seems to be sort of questionable – it seems to creat a guaranteed underclass. Ignoring the immigrant distinctions would minimize that, but then you need to generate money from somewhere to take care of the people who will come (either by finding a way to know who’s here and to tax their income – which would make their employment less optimal for employers – or to increase taxes on others, which increases their incentive to drop off the tax radar, a free-rider problem).
    Since I’ve had this stuck in my head awhile, please poke at it, because it doesn’t jive with what you and other people advocate and I would like to understand what the problems with my reasoning (such as it is) are.
    It is nice to see people who have a facile understanding of the Bible (and a willingness to use it as a club to get what they want) get pwned. It could happen to a nicer person, but not to too many less appropriate ones.

  2. I am not politically-informed and so don’t know much about that guy. However, I agree that people should be able to talk/debate in public. Televizing the McCarthy hearings to led to his downfall since the public got to see the monster that he was.
    For the international audience: in the early 1950s US Senator Joe McCarthy became famous for attempting to defang communists in the US. He ruined many, many careers by accusing people of being communist. On TV, a gentlemanly lawyer, of a certain age, calmly asked McCarthy if he had “no humanity left” after Big Joe accused a young lawyer of being communist; thus (potentially) ruining the young lawyer’s career. McCarthy had wanted to become a hero and run for President. After that encounter, he could not buy a vote.
    That story shows concrete results, implied in the story about Mr. Carroll.

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