Illegal Immigration and the Soiling of Hands
Recently in my Spanish class we watched a short National Geographic video on illegalimmigration and the conditions for those seeking to enter the US and Canada from LatinAmerica. It was pretty interesting and as I watched there seemed to be a lot of blame shifting foratrocities from the Mexican authorities to the US. A great point of analysis comes to mind. Onecould ask if, in fact, the hands of US policy makers are dirty.
In the segment that we were shown, the main issue was a shift in US border control policy. TheUS threatened to cease aid payments to Mexico unless their borders were tightened against Central American migrants. This, according to the movie, prompted a severe crackdown on the part of Mexican police and created an environment of oppression for potential illegal US immigrants.
The US hoped to stop Central American migrants in Mexico
The movie cited and gave examples of abuse of migrants, corruption (taking bribes to let a migrant go), and generally oppressive treatment of detained migrants. They specifically said that the US border patrol was much more humane to those who are detained, treating them with dignity and respect. This is apparently not a part of the Mexican border protection methodology.
This division in conduct makes it difficult for anyone to say whether or not the US policy makers have dirty hands for their actions. Are US policy makers to be held accountable for the actions of Mexican police, especially when US border patrol is entirely respectable? A work I recently read, “Political Action” by Michael Walzer, looks at the issue of dirty hands through a “neoclassical”approach, as well as “softer”, more religiously influenced explanations. His main claim is that politics will, by nature, require getting one’s hands dirty. The same applies toenforcing the policies that are enacted.
Utilitarianism is truly amoral, declaring that any means is acceptable if the ends justify it. The neo-classical approach is similar to this, but instead focuses on glory and failure. The idea is that through success we can justify otherwise unethical choices. Unfortunately the video did not give too many details on actual numbers. This makes it difficult to tell how successful the policy is. There was one vague, but important, point: in the time period they looked at (mid to late-2000’s) they claimed that there was a reduced number of Central American illegal US immigrants.
(the film also noted that illegal immigration was on an upward trend at the time, but they claim it was due to increased Mexican illegal immigration)
It does appear that the policy has had an effect (note the flat-line near’05 and decline since ’07)
The film went on to ask the question many probably have on their mind, “at what cost?” This, however, is not the concern of the neo-classical approach. Simply the fact that the policy was successful, and the glory that this success entails, would justify the actions that were being taken. Walzer would approve of this cold conclusion if this were the only approach he looked at.
Beyond the calculating, unforgiving utilitarian approach, Walzer looked at religiously paralleled approaches. I prefer to look at his favorite of the three, the Catholic approach. This looks atpolicy and actions as being a series of sins that have certain punishments.
The issue is one of balancing your sins and the benefit that the society receives. The atrocities going on in Mexico are most definitely too great to be justified by a slightly lower rate of illegalimmigration. Someone definitely has dirty hands, be they Mexican border enforcement or US policy makers. This is not a terrible thing, though. Walzer points out that all leaders have tomake hard decisions, and no good leader can escape dirtying their hands. Who actually bears the brunt of the blame is an issue of debate, even in the film itself.
Perhaps we do not need to distribute the blame at all. There is probably a fitting penance for bothlaw makers and enforcers that only serves to benefit our world. Perhaps there could be reformand it would include mandating service work on the part of law makers and police for the migrants. What definitely needs to happen is a reduction of corruption and reassurance that Mexican law enforcement treats detainees with respect and dignity. This would diminish the sins committed and prevent further soiling of hands.
This is my first post and I would love to get some constructive criticism and suggestions. How was my tone of voice (too formal for a blog, not formal enough)? Did I present the concpets well? Should I have more of the works in my post? Should I focus more on my own ideas and experiences? Also, how do you suggest I integrate media into my posts?