The video above (source) is worth watching in its entirety. It is utterly amazing that Rep. Steve King (R) of Iowa can speak like this to a woman who was brought to the US when she was 5 years old and then grew up here. The condescension regarding her English skills is striking, but the simplistic nature of his position is the most stunning.
This interchange underscores a core part of the current debate that truly amazes and saddens me: that one can look at a person who has spent their life from age 5 to at least 22 in the US living as an American (the woman in question is a college graduate) and pretend like it really would be a good and just idea to send such a person from the country that is undeniably their home to a country that clearly is not.
Home is not just about where one was born – often far from it, in fact.
The complexity and real human costs of reducing a lifetime to a simplistic pronouncement about immigration law is nauseating.
I understand, on an intellectual level, the appeal of the alleged justice of the simple formulation that the law must be followed or that illegal behavior should never be rewarded. However, since laws are malleable and subject to reconsideration, the notion of eternal fealty to a given law simply because it is a law is asinine.
And the issue goes beyond simplistic legality to one of actual justice: We as a country have to consider how just it would be to essentially take away all the constituent elements of a person’s life and deposit them in a foreign land (to them, even if not so to the law) because of someone else’s actions.
Consider how much of one’s life and identity is wrapped up in the daily familiarity of one’s surroundings: one’s favorite restaurant or café and all of the little things that make up one’s day. Consider how much we identity with place (whether it be local customs, vocabulary, or sports teams). Anyone who has ever moved, especially to a very different place than one’s starting spot (say from rural Alabama to Los Angeles) or, even more potently, lived abroad, knows exactly what I am talking about.
And, of course, there is the even more profound fact that all of the people in one’s life live, oddly enough, in the same place one does as well (for the most part). The fact that one might have some cousins in the old country does not make up for what one might be forced to leave behind.
All of the above has to be understood in the context, again, of a child being brought to the US as a very young child and then doing what children do: growing up. And no child thinks about things like borders or immigration law. They just know what they know in the life that surrounds them. This should matter, especially if the child in question grows up to be a responsible, law-abiding adult.
Steven L. Taylor appears on the Outside the Beltway blog at http://www.outsidethebeltway.com/.