Immi-greatly exaggerated

There’s a lot of different things to weigh when considering who to elect as the new governor of Nebraska this fall. You could vote on experience, personality, hair follicle production…

What you probably shouldn’t vote on is immigration.

Sadly, if the Omaha World Herald is to be believed, which it sometimes is, you’re probably going to vote on immigration. From the article:

The stark contrast that exists between Democrat Chuck Hassebrook and Republican Pete Ricketts on illegal immigration is best illustrated by the children. Hassebrook believes the children of illegal immigrants should be able to receive driver’s licenses and pay in-state tuition rates at Nebraska’s colleges. “It defies our sense of justice to punish children for action taken by their parents,” said Hassebrook, a former member of the University of Nebraska Board of Regents. “This is the only home they’ve known in many cases. This is where they grew up and attended school.”


Ricketts believes the children and their parents should go home. The Omaha businessman says he “empathizes” with the children’s plight, but believes the nation has to take a “principled approach” to immigration. That means, he said, no one should be rewarded for illegal activity — not even the children. “Our taxpayer benefits are generated by our citizens in the state for people who are here legally, and that’s who they ought to be preserved for,” Ricketts said.

Ah, compassionate conservatism wherefore art thou?

Nevermind that what Ricketts proposes may well be illegal, insofar as the current version of that pesky constitution explicitly states that anyone born here (“anchor baby” or otherwise) is a legal US citizen. In some cases, perfectly legal children of illegal immigrants are registered as citizens because, as you may imagine, mom and dad aren’t too keen on government paperwork.

What’s more striking to me is how cold and clinical Ricketts’ dismissal is. He cites a “principled approach,” which is actually contrary to his claims of “empathy.” Meanwhile, Hassebrook hits right to the core of it, treating the children of immigrants not as tax dollars to be argued over or criminals in waiting…but instead treating them like, you know, living human beings. I think the difference between the characters of the two men are as evident as the differences in their policies. Oh, and I have to laugh any time a “family first” Christian gives a curt answer like “ship their asses back to Mexico” in response to immigration. You know, like Jesus would say…

Let’s take a look at a few quick issues about immigration here in Nebraska so that you can focus on things that actually matter more to you.

1 – We’re talking about a very small group

I love the inflated rhetoric over tax dollars “plundered by illegal immigrants” by GOP candidates who then immediately defend corporate welfare. Do you know how many people in Nebraska are illegal immigrants? 2.6% according to the Pew Research Center.  I want this to really sink in. Here’s a graph depicting this sweeping epidemic we may never recover from:

The horror! Clearly, instead of issues like minimum wage, farm subsidies, and marriage equality that plays a role in the lives of MILLIONS, we should stop everything and bicker over 2.6%.

2 – Governors can’t do squat about immigration 

Did I mention that this issue is stupid for state officials to fight about? Because it is. While things like the driver’s license issue and school tuition are regulated at a state level, the federal government has supremacy over all things immigration. Remember that draconian Arizona law that would let them rough up anyone even slightly immigrant-looking? A federal judge blocked 4 parts of that law, including the one where anyone has to produce ID just for looking brown. In fact, time and time again, when states enact laws like these, they get struck down thanks to the constitution being pretty clear on the fed having more sway.

In other words, voting for the Governor of Nebraska based on his position regarding immigration is literally voting on something he can’t do.

3 – Tax schmax 

I realize that illegal immigrants do not, in fact, pay federal or state income taxes or property taxes. They do, however, pay taxes. Check it out:

Unauthorized immigrants in Nebraska paid $42.3 million in state and local taxes in 2010, according to data from the Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy, which includes $6.3 million in state income taxes, $3.4 million in property taxes, and $32.6 million in sales taxes.

Of the many different fallacies that are spread about illegal immigrants, this is the most insane one. They do, in fact, pay taxes. To follow what Ricketts suggests is to take $42.3 million from these people and give them nothing in return. Oh, and right now, they do not and cannot cause a drain on the system that outweighs that number, because they are not eligible to use many of the resources their tax dollars pay for. 

If, despite what I’m begging you to consider here, you do INSIST on voting for either Pete Ricketts or Chuck Hassebrook based on immigration policy, please peruse the actual facts here. That site has TONS of valuable statistics and information that isn’t skewed for political purpose.

4 – The humanity!

I will never understand what causes someone to look at another human being and consider them to be lesser. The fervor over illegal immigration is thinly-veiled xenophobia and racism. It is fear of those who do not look like us or speak like us. It is ignorance about their character and culture. More than anything, it’s that same, tired American way of thinking that would rather make sure the other guy doesn’t “get something for free” than to try and make sure we’re all doing okay.

Go back and read those early comments. From his dealings with rural communities and farms, I don’t doubt that Chuck has come in direct contact with the people he’s speaking about. His work trying to offer education to as many Nebraskans as possible has no doubt put him in touch with scores of young men and women who are trapped by decisions they did not make. For Ricketts to say that these CHILDREN, who have done NOTHING but deal with the circumstances of their birth, should be unceremoniously kicked out of our state or denied opportunity bespeaks a mentality I want no part of, especially in a position of power.

Voting for someone “like you” may be overrated. But voting for someone willing to explicitly group CHILDREN in with “illegal behavior” makes no sense to me. If you want immigration reform, that’s an issue for your House Representative and Senator. I want a governor who treats all Nebraskans as people, not “tax burdens” or “illegals.”  

If you ask me, that mentality is far more problematic than 2.6% of our population is.


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