If Gov. Mike Pence wants to damage the Hoosier economy, he’s on track by attacking the president’s measure to grant a reprieve to some of the immigrants who are here working, spending, paying taxes, attending church and otherwise carrying on productive lives without proper papers.
My colleague John Krull pretty much said it all, and with Lincolnesque eloquence at that, in his recent column detailing just how many ways the fatuous legal challenge by Pence and fellow Republicans in other states offend the party of Lincoln’s traditional principles of sensible government and human sensitivity.
Particularly enlightening was Krull’s mention of the tens of thousands of illegals who pour into the U.S. each year from Canada and Ireland. Who, following the immigration debate in the news, knew? My Lord, the nation is being infiltrated daily by fur hats and Notre Dame football fans, and nothing but silence from Pence and Co.
Might this enlightening have to do with lighter skin?
One scratches one’s head. What could it be, besides picayune fixation on legal labels, or knee-jerk hostility toward differences in looks and language, that accounts for the policy or politics behind Pence’s choice to make a target of a small segment of the population that, by definition, is eager to work, staying out of trouble, and in need of unification with young family members previously made “legal?”
From a legal standpoint, he’s wasting our tax dollars. Immigration is a federal responsibility and President Barack Obama is fully within his powers deferring prosecution for various categories of offenders, none of whom bothers Pence except for the ones at hand.
Financially and otherwise, the state is hardly being hurt by the invasion that so horrifies Pence and his allies on the nativist right. To the contrary. A few years ago, the Sagamore Institute undertook a study that found Indiana’s undocumented immigrants to be a net benefit to the state by a decisive margin when their labor, tax payments, purchases, Social Security withholding (which they’re unlikely ever to draw from) and other economic activity was figured in.
That’s not to mention the unquantifiable commerce and the intangibles. Folks from Mexico and Central America have revived inner-city neighborhoods, resurrected dying parishes, rejuvenated schools. Illegal children burdening our classrooms? When he was superintendent of Indianapolis Public Schools, Eugene White told me he wished he had more of those avid first-generation Latino parents, many of whom had to be presumed to be undocumented. When Back-to-School Night came around, they showed up.
This involvement, this fruitful normal living, is compromised continually by fear of being found out and deported. You think twice, if at all, about bargaining for more pay, complaining about getting cheated out of your wages, reporting a crime or purchasing a house when you’re operating under a cloud that you – unlike so many other breakers of our countless laws – did not bring on by malice or antisocial foolishness. You need a break, and what’s the danger to your neighbors? The governor cannot present us with one. Indeed, stifling you is a negative for Indiana.
In my mind, that leaves race. And presidential aspirations that rest on xenophobia, the drug demagogues historically dispense to coax out America’s worst impulses and delay our getting better. It’s a shame to see our governor drag Indiana into another unholy alliance with those Obamaphobic states that would sell their souls, not only cheap, but at a loss.
Dan Carpenter is a freelance writer, a contributor to The Indianapolis Business Journal and Sky Blue Window, and the author of “Indiana Out Loud.”