The Columbia Critic

A place to debate anything we want to. We'll talk Columbia campus issues. We'll talk up the homosexual problem. We'll talk China. And we'll talk without resorting to partisan rhetoric. We may be left. We may be right. But we aren't going to be quoting any party line. We're leading the discussion. But feel free to chime in. Hannity and Colmes this is not.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Columbia Riots

Columbia Spectator: Minutemen Protesters Rush Stage

Protestors took the stage minutes after Jim Gilchrist, founder of the Minuteman Project, came to the microphone in Roone Arledge Auditorium Wednesday night, sparking a chaotic brawl involving more than 20 students, other attendees, and guests.

Two students in the International Socialist Organization unfurled a yellow banner reading, "No one is illegal!" which prompted other protestors to rush the stage. Gilchrist supporters then clamored on stage while the speakers were ushered out of the auditorium.


I believe that plenty has been said with regards to the inappropriate nature of the protest and ensuing riot that occured during the Minutemen event held by the College Republicans. I certainly agree with the majority opinion that it was incredibly juvenile and entirely against the spirit of free speech and academic inquiry that Columbia espouses. In the words of John Stuart Mill in On Liberty:
"If all mankind minus one were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind."

I will also freely admit that there are plenty of members of the minutemen organization who are wholly xenophobic, though I believe to call them racist in many instances goes beyond the pale.

However, I don't entirely disagree with their existence or what they are trying to do, and I will tell you why.

First, let me explain that I am a firm supporter of immigration and that I realize completely the inherent value in a working immigrant population. I have taken my fair share of economics courses. As is the case with most people in this country, my family came here as immigrants. I also have many acquaintences and friends who are themselves immigrants of this country, and I recognize the hard work and that they have put in and the heartache they have experienced ust to get to this country, nevermind to establish a life, family, and career here.

But I've also worked long enough in the business to recognize the absolute necessity of border security and a controlled immigration program. I know what is out there. The world is a dangerous place and many people simply do not realize (even after 9/11 surprisingly) how quickly and easily it is for a country, even this country - especially this country, to be harmed. Nor do many realize how easy it can be for our delicate social and economic programs to become entirely overrun and underfunded due to major population changes.

I agree that our immigration system is rediculously complicated and loaded with red tape. It unquestionably must be simplified. I, for instance, have relatives from Ireland who have been working in this country for over a decade and still haven't been granted citizenship. The inner workings, rules, and regulations of the INS are counterintuitive at best. At worst, I fear the organization is being run by a family of manatees, all of whom have likely experienced head injuries from the tail end of a speedboat. It should not be this difficult to obtain citizenship, particularly for those who already have jobs here!

But I also agree with the Minutemen: neither the Bush administration nor Congress has done anything to improve security along our borders. I do not fear 99% of illegal immigrants. In fact I believe that a great majority of them only serve to improve our economy and enrich our culture. But I do know that allowing people to come into this country with out any sort of control or surveillance over who enters this country and from where will only serve to endanger our population and severely inhibit our own social services. Just as one example: think about the exorbitant cost of healthcare when you have tens of thousands of visits to emergency rooms every day by people who are too afraid or too poor to go anywhere else for their cold or flu symptoms because they are not living in this country legally.

Yes, part of the solution should be to make it easier for people to attain legal status (either as resident or citizen) here in the United States. This must be done. But it does nothing at all to fix the other half of the problem! The fact that our borders are still not secure! Again, I am not worried about the 99% of people who cross that border in order to find jobs and support their family and find a better life. As a nation of immigrants, we should embrace them and do everything in our power to find ways for them to do so. I am worried, however, about that fraction of a percent who wish to do harm to this country or its citizens - whether as criminals, or as terrorists, or simply as social freeloaders. And I am worried about our ability to support that other 99% - through social programs, healthcare, education, &c - with out having any means to either track or control the influx of people.

And so, as I see it, the vigilante Minutemen organization has stepped in where both the state and federal governments have consistently failed. They are an ad hoc organization that is poorly run and has little oversight. They should not exist. Then again, if the government was doing its job, they wouldn't need to.



  • At 5:47 AM, Blogger Wang said…

    Sean did you read this comment on bwog? I thought it was pretty interesting.

    Something the members of the Chicano caucus seem to forget is that the illegal immigrants are not the victims. You keep blaming the 3000 deaths in the desert, which I might add are all tragic, on the minutemen. They havent killed one person. You fail to put the blame where it rightfully belongs, on the government of Mexico.

    First and foremost in this arguement is the fact that they are coming here illegally. Mexico currently has the highest visa quota of any country with regards to legal immigration. Legal immigrants are wonderful addition to our society, to our country and to our culture. What on earth possesses you to believe that anyone from Mexico should be allowed to emigrate to the United States without regards for our laws. This is the main contention that most in America have with illegal immigration, the fact that it is illegal. Our laws are flaunted, our school are taxed, and these new illegal immigrants come here with expectations that previous generations of immigrants, legal immigrants, never harbored.

    The problem stems from the government in Mexico which fails to provide a system which accounts for all of its people. Mexico has more than enough natural resources and industry to support its people, and to have a flourishing economy, but rampant corruption (which is a staple of life and in many cases the only way to get things done, unfortunately) incalculable inefficiency, and stubborness all leads to the poverty which exists.

    Solve this problem and then we wont have a problem with illegal immigration, we wont have people dying in the desert, and wont be having this discussion any more.

    Again, the question I pose to this group is, why are the inordinate amount of visas that are granted to Mexican citizens each year not enough.

    By the way, I think I know something of which I speak, I lived in Mexico City for a number of years. This I say before you go off on your this person is a racist rant. A person can have an opinion that is contrary to yours without being a racist, can believe that illegal immigration is just that illegal and should be stopped, especially in light of the fact that we have a large number of people coming from Mexico who went through the process, waited their time and came here the legal way without being xenophobic.

    The worst part is that most illegal immigrants are nice people, just trying to make a living that their government doesnt allow them to and would prefer to stay in their own country if the opportunity presented itself.

    One last question, why can the US baseball team or soccer team go to play a game against a hispanic team in Los Angeles and have urine and batteries and glass throw at them and the national anthem booed, when they are playing in their own country. Dont you think this does a lot to incur the wrath of the public and push sentiment against those perpetrating the act.

  • At 5:53 AM, Blogger Wang said…

    also, I would like your honest opinion, do you think that our university is one of ideological homogeny? Well not only homogeny, but break down in useful dialogue?

    Perhaps I was living in a large bubble, but I found Columbia to be a institution that called into question your very beliefs, whether it source from the professors or your peers. I can't even count on two hands how many serious discussions/arguments I had been in over the last few years. Perhaps the public and institutionalized faces of political leanings at Columbia have broke down, but I still think that person to person interaction is fairly civil and very much alive.

    Oh and I thought your post was quite nice.

  • At 6:14 AM, Blogger Wang said…

    It's also unfortunate that this site doesn't get more traffic. The real discussion has devolved into pro-immigration and anti-immigration, which is not the issue at all.

    I feel as if a lot of the sentiment that is being expressed is from expatriated nationalists from Latin America. Yes Sean is absolutely correct that we need to fix our immigration policies, lottery quotas and all of that other stuff, and we really need to be concerned about border safety and our status with Mexico. That's what the discussion should be about, how to reform immigration policies. I know it would help me better understand the facets of such ideas as open borders, which I currently think is a bad road to go down.

    Allowing the minutemen to be the spokespeople for an issue like this is just destined for absolute failure of communication. The government needs to get serious and figure this thing out.

  • At 1:54 PM, Blogger Sean said…

    Interesting comment on the Bwog. As far as Columbia University is concerned I have observed first hand that the university is as far from being ideologically homogenous as one could imagine possible. As with most institutions of higher learning, there tends to be a larger (or perhaps simply more vocal) liberal voice among the student population. But views are so varied among the large (30,000) population that it would be impossible to assign to Columbia any one ideological strand or even general ideological theme. 95% of the time interactions are civil, but there is always that small percent that want to cause trouble.

  • At 5:51 PM, Blogger Brian said…

    Can we agree that Columbia is home to some rather nutty and uncivil leftists who prefer being right over allowing civil discourse? If you accept that viewpoint, it makes the disruption reflect far less poorly on the University (which I agree is not nearly as homogeneous as sometimes assumed) and more on the poor judgment of ideologues who apply the First Amendment selectively.

  • At 3:15 AM, Blogger Wang said…

    Most people, you will find, apply the first amendment selectively (I mean in the spirit of the amendment and not in its constitutional application),

    If we all respected freedom of speech, in spirit, we'd have a lot more open minded people and a lot more dialogue.


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