Saturday, November 19, 2011

Individual versus collective guilt in the public mind (immigration)

Here's one more "log to put on the fire", a sort of a double standard

One point that a lot of the discussion about immigration misses is the difference between individual culpability and collective presumed guilt. The former is judged by the courts. The latter is judged by the court of public opinion, and this court has a vastly far lower standard for placing blame. And, it is this court of public opinion to which all political representatives and servants must answer, at peril otherwise of losing their jobs and dignity (and cushy benefits and retirement plans... speaking of DeeDee's José Julián Martí Pérez quote about torches vs. jaws).

...To illustrate this, an immigrant who overstays her visa may in the eyes of the law be guilty of only an administrative violation. But, if fearful members of the public see that visa overstays are common, they will assume that at least some of the overstayers did so on purpose, and deliberately entered the country with unlawful intent. And, public opinion will be even more savage against those who actually entered illegally, by eluding immigration agents and inspection or use of false documents. This remains true even if none of the individual immigrants were found guilty of illegal entry, and all were simply found guilty of the administrative violation of unlawful presence. In the court of public opinion, however, many US citizens will judge them as criminal.

...Individuals in real courts usually get presumption of innocence. Groups, especially minority groups, in the court of public opinion get few if any breaks. Is the court of opinion always fair? Hell, no. It makes plenty of mistakes and can be swayed by racist fears and demagogues. But is it real? Yes -- and it doesn't need no stinking badge or law books or due process.

...Immigration/immigrant advocates have to thread a very narrow passage between, on the one side, educating Americans about what is and isn’t criminal and fighting against unfair laws and procedures; and on the other side, seeming to trivialize or be misleading about violations of laws and the concerns and fears of opponents. Overselling can cost credibility and hardening of public opinion. Underselling misses a chance to educate people and grasp opportunities for fairer treatment of all.


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