As many of you might remember, one of the issues that occupied a brief portion of the media cycle during 2008′s presidential election was the status of one of Barack Obama’s Kenyan relatives who happened to live in the United States. For better or worse, Aunt Zeituni has returned to the public spotlight. As much as I would like to impute underhanded motives to the people who granted this woman permanent residency-at the very least, it merits further investigation-the truth is that the immigration law in this country is such a complete muddle that it’s not inconceivable that this would have been the outcome of a similar case not involving a distant relation of the POTUS.
But rather than explore the inherent absurdities of a system that would allow an infirm, unemployed woman who made illegal contributions to Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, who received disability payments for which she was ineligible, and whose shelter is being furnished at the expense of American taxpayers, to remain in this country indefinitely, I want to look at the assertion by Aunt Zeituni that she has been exploited by this system.
At first glance, considering all of the benefits the United States-a nation that all would agree is preferable to the horrible, third world country she fled-has extended to Zeituni Onyango, her assertion that she has been exploited would appear to be the height of ingratitude and arrogance. Well, as surprising as this opinion might seem, I think she might have a valid point.
After all, what did Aunt Zeituni do, except take advantage of every opportunity that was presented to her? She was allowed to live-and was paid a small stipend-by the federal government which also ordered her deportation, a seeming contradiction that must have given her even more reason to believe that what she was doing, i.e. breaking the law, was correct. But even if she realized the import of her actions, what was to stop her from taking advantage of a slew of benefits the American taxpayer extended to her? Wouldn’t she have been foolish not to enjoy the bounty she was given, rightfully or not, once she fled her native homeland?
Don’t we all have a side, even if we’re loathe to admit so, that wants something for nothing? A part of us that loves receiving a reward, even if it’s unearned? There are millions of rent-controlled and rent stabilized apartment buildings in New York, and goodness knows, you don’t need to be an ardent anti-capitalist to enjoy the inherent benefits of living in one of those units. Just as you needn’t have been a white supremacist to have enjoyed the racial classfication under Apartheid that came with being a white South African in the pre-Mandela era.
Granted, the characterization of illegals as benign, put-upon laborers trying to provide for their families, an obnoxious cliche perpetuated by open borders apologists like Tamar Jacoby and the disciples of Robert Bartley at the Wall Street Journal editorial page, is far from the truth. Many of these individuals are an exigent threat to the health and well being of Americans. However, the vast majority of them are simply different versions of Aunt Zeituni, i.e. people who come here to exploit the opportunities and collect the benefits that come from living in the United States.
See, the problem isn’t Zeituni Onyango. The problem, to paraphrase the great cartoonist Walter Kelly, is us! We are the ones that gave people like President Obama’s Kenyan aunt the impression that our immigration system was established to help individuals like her, and not for the benefit of Americans. Perhaps the accusation that we have exploited her is a bit much, but I honestly think she hits the mark closer than many so-called experts on the immigration issue.
Until countries like America and Canada pull up the welcome mat, illegal aliens will continue to believe that they are welcome.