A Shakespearean Glance at the People and Issues of the Day.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Much Ado About Nothing on the Border


In Much Ado About Nothing, Dogberry (played by Michael Keaton in Kenneth Branaugh's movie version of the play) is a comical sheriff of the prince's court, and Verges is his sidekick. Dogberry is in charge of the guard, to whom he offers careful instruction (vagrom means vagrant):

Dog: "This is your charge: you shall comprehend
all vagrom men; you are to bid any man stand,
in the Prince's name."

Seacoal: "How if 'a will not stand?"

Dog: "Why, then, take no note of him, but let
him go, and presently call the rest of the watch
together and thank God you are rid of a knave."

Verges: "If he will not stand when he is bidden,
he is none of the Prince's subjects."

Dog: "True, and they are to meddle with none
but the Prince's subjects….".

Following in Dogberry's footsteps, President Bush earlier this week announced an adjustment of administration border policy. He presented plans to end the "catch and release" policy whereby apprehended aliens are given a court date – essentially asked to voluntarily participate in their own deportation – and then released into America's waiting arms. While this rededication to enforcement of the laws is welcome, upon inspection the new policies appear cosmetic.

For example, President Bush mentioned in his speech the use by employers of only a voluntary system to verify the legal status of workers. No explanation was offered for why this should not be mandatory. Nor has the Social Security Administration been instructed to reject fake social security numbers submitted by employers on behalf of employees. The Treasury Department has not been instructed to reject use of ID cards issued by a foreign government – of course Mexico's – in opening bank accounts in the US.

Watch: "We will rather sleep than talk.
We know what belongs to a watch."

Dog: "Why, you speak like an ancient and
most quiet watchman, for I cannot see how
sleeping should offend. Only have a care
that your bills be not stolen."

And nothing was announced that might end the widespread black market in fake IDs that has driven the price of green cards to $70, and California drivers' licenses to under $250. The added border enforcement budget appears designed more for cosmetic purposes than to permit adequate policing of the border. The ulterior motive behind the President speech was revealed by a Republican official close to the White House, who spoke with Time magazine:

"Bush decided to give these guys their rhetorical
pound of flesh. In return, he wants a comprehensive
bill, which is what he has always wanted. He's just
going to lead with a lot of noise about border security."

A comprehensive bill means a bill including amnesty. Now, as pro-immigration as I am – my wife is and three of my four grandparents were immigrants – I believe that there is a difference between a population that immigrates lawfully, and one whose first act in their new country is an act of contempt for its laws.

It pains bardseyeview to satirize a President who is so admirably stalwart in advancing the cause of freedom across the world. But freedom here at home implies that our own representative government respond to the will of the people, rather than attempt to actually redefine the people by extralegal means. It is as if the President is voting us out of office, in order to put in place an altered populace that is more to his liking.

Let's listen in as President Dogberry, I mean President Bush, instructs the Border Patrol:

Dogberry: "If you meet a thief, you may suspect
him, by virtue of your office, to be no true man;
and for such kind of men, the less you meddle or
make with them, why, the more is for your honesty."

Watch: "Truly, by your office you may, but I think
they that touch pitch will be defiled. The most
peaceable way for you, if you do take a thief, is to
let him show himself what he is and steal out of
your company."

Verges: "You have been always called a merciful
man, partner."

Our immigrants should be people who are better than we are, and whose inclusion therefore improves us - my chief example for myself being my wife. And the people who are out there in the world who would improve us – with their doctorate degrees, their profitable companies seeking to be relocated, their achievements in business and the arts – such people would never consider illegal entry. And every illegal entrant, besides breeding contempt for law among the rest of us, and among the illegal entrants themselves, leaves less room for those who should be admitted, for those would lift us up, who would advance us, who would improve us.

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