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Guest column: Answers that are simple, neat, wrong solve little

POSTED: November 30, 2008 5:00 a.m.

Demagogy refers to a political strategy for gaining political power by appealing to the prejudices and fears of the public typically via impassioned rhetoric and propaganda. Unfortunately, demagogy is an effective strategy for getting elected and many politicians continue to use it.

We have seen particularly destructive demagogy from those who chose to invade Iraq in response to an attack on the United States perpetrated by 15 Saudis, one Egyptian, one Lebanese and two from the United Arab Emirates, operating out of Afghanistan. We see it from those who continue to insist that we immediately withdraw from Iraq in spite of the fact that this would leave a disastrous power vacuum in the region.

One area of incessant demagogy is the ongoing immigration debate. We are constantly subjected to the lamentations of those who insist that immigrants are ruining our country in spite of the fact that the entire U.S. economics community continues to insist that immigrants help our economy, and the incarceration rate of U.S. citizens is almost three times as high as that of the foreign born.

We have seen demagogy from those who insist that terrorists enter the United States by illegally crossing our southern border in spite of the fact that no terrorist has ever been documented as having done so.

On the county level, our sheriff has pushed us into the now infamous 287(g) program which allows local law enforcement deputies to place immigration detainers on every undocumented immigrant who is arrested.

It was, however, already the case that anyone arrested for any serious or dangerous offense was placed into deportation proceedings by the immigration agents who were already stationed here in Hall County. Therefore the only people affected by the 287(g) program are the most minor offenders, thus this program costs us money and does little to make our community safer, but it does win votes.

The five menaces to society arrested for fishing without a license earlier this year, who were subsequently deported pursuant to this program, are a case in point.

On the state level, our governor and legislature recently wasted untold resources making it illegal for undocumented immigrants to receive any government benefits. Illegal immigrants’ first stop when they cross the border should not be the welfare line, said our governor. This new Georgia law, however, simply restates federal law that has been on the books since 1996, and did nothing to change eligibility of undocumented immigrants for public benefits.

On the federal level, we have seen laws to build a 700-mile fence along our nearly 2,000-mile southern border to the tune of perhaps as much as $49 billion of taxpayer money. Never mind the fact that since the enforcement push on the U.S.-Mexico border began in 1986, the apprehension rate dropped from around 33 percent to about 5 percent as immigrants began to cross the border in more remote locations and more immigrants turned to human traffickers who developed increasingly clever ways to smuggle people into the country, and this fence will only make this phenomenon more pronounced.

Never mind the fact that the U.S.-Mexico border has approximately five border patrol agents per mile, while the U.S.-Canada border has approximately one agent per every five miles and virtually no fencing at all.

Never mind the fact that the almost universal consensus of the economics community of the United States is that we are spending unimaginable amounts of money to solve a problem that we could solve much more cheaply and much more to the benefit of our economy by simply revamping our country’s outdated immigration laws.

And never mind that, as Julie Myers, the assistant secretary of the Department of Homeland Security who was in charge of Immigration and Customs Enforcement under the Bush administration, pointed out, "If there was a way for individuals coming just to work to come out of the shadows, we could focus on those who don’t want to come out and are a threat to national security and public safety," rather than wasting resources waging a war on landscapers and dishwashers.

Revamping our immigration laws, however, is controversial and could cost votes.

For every complex problem, there is a solution that is simple, neat and wrong. In our brave new world of 30-second sound bites and 60-second political advertisements, the simple, neat and wrong solutions all too often prevail. The complex but right solutions to our problems couldn’t possibly fit in into such neat snippets.

The demagogues use these wrong solutions for their personal gain. They use them to get votes, power or money. They put their personal well-being above that of their country and their fellow Americans.

Selling out your country for your own personal gain is treasonous. Why do we continue to support people who knowingly mislead us?

David Kennedy is a Gainesville attorney.



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