Andrea Nill highlights the sad case of Alabama State Senator Scott Beason who recently delivered an address on immigration that began with the observation “If you don’t believe illegal immigration will destroy a community go and check out parts of Alabama around Arab and Albertville.” Then, according to the Cullman Times, “Beason ended his speech by advising Republicans to ‘empty the clip, and do what has to be done.'”
Does Beason stand by the claim that Republicans ought to murder unauthorized migrants? As it happens, he does not:
Beason now insists that his comments were taken out of context and that he was using an analogy and not urging violence.
This highlights something that is, I think, a central issue for immigration politics. It turns out that Mexicans are human beings. Even if they move to the United States. Even if they do so without permission. Murdering them is wrong! Whenever I write that the interests of the immigrants themselves deserves to be part of the immigration calculus, folks will email in to observe that this argument is hardly likely to carry the day politically. And it’s probably not. But on the other hand, Beasons back-tracking underscores the fact that the American people aren’t monsters. Even in Alabama it would be politically damaging to be thought of as the guy who wants to shoot Mexicans. And the reason it’s wrong to shoot them is that they’re people and their interests count.
So that’s progress. Think of it as trivial if you like, but our country’s first century would have been a very different place if “let’s murder these people and take their land because they look funny and speak a foreign language” hadn’t been considered a politically viable policy initiative. Continuing to push thinking about this question in a better direction over time is important.