An acquaintance of mine raised a complaint that’s fairly familiar and, so, seemed worth a blog post. He is questioning why some folks call him a racist for being opposed to illegal immigration. He says he’s fine with legal immigration but opposes illegal immigration. What is so wrong or racist about being in favor of enforcing the law?
My response was:
The notion of racism comes from how intensely one reacts to illegal immigration versus other kinds of law breaking. If you support Trump despite his violation of laws against discriminatory housing but then get very unhappy about immigrants who haven’t obtained the proper paperwork, it makes people think that sanctity of the law isn’t the only thing motivating your outrage.
Would you vote for a candidate who promises to permanently revoke driving privileges for anyone who has exceeded the posted speed limit? Probably not. Which raises the question about why you feel so much more passionately about violating immigration laws.
I have mixed feelings about throwing around the label “racist.” It’s sometimes warranted but it’s also a conversation stopper. On the other hand, as I’ve pointed out many times in the past, I’m an upper-middle class white guy, so my taking a more philosophical approach to the question of racism is a privilege I have that others probably don’t.
In any case, on the subject of immigration, illegality, and whether racism might motivate one’s reaction to illegal immigration, I think it comes down to evaluating that reaction as compared to other forms of law-breaking. Do you view immigrating without the proper paperwork as more like a crime that’s malum prohibitum (wrong because it’s prohibited) like speeding or more like a crime that’s malum in se (wrong in itself) like robbery? If Congress legalized the immigration in question, would you be cool with the newly legal immigrants or would you be mad at Congress? The responses to those questions and your reasons for them probably go a long way toward answering whether race is a motivating factor in your views on the subject.