In any event, I am now on the contacts list of a number of elderly internet users, one of whom frequently forwards emails of a political and supposedly humorous nature. Most of the time I ignore them, though occasionally I will reply to refute the ones I feel really need to be refuted. The following, however, is one so exceptionally daft I feel a need to share. I've cut the clip art, but left the text verbatim.
LET'S SEE IF I GOT THIS RIGHT!!!
IF YOU CROSS THE NORTH KOREAN BORDER ILLEGALLY YOU GET 12 YEARS HARD LABOR.
IF YOU CROSS THE IRANIAN BORDER ILLEGALLY YOU ARE DETAINED INDEFINITELY.
IF YOU CROSS THE AFGHAN BORDER ILLEGALLY, YOU GET SHOT.
IF YOU CROSS THE SAUDI ARABIAN BORDER ILLEGALLY YOU WILL BE JAILED.
IF YOU CROSS THE CHINESE BORDER ILLEGALLY YOU MAY NEVER BE HEARD FROM AGAIN.
IF YOU CROSS THE VENEZUELAN BORDER ILLEGALLY YOU WILL BE BRANDED A SPY AND YOUR FATE WILL BE SEALED.
IF YOU CROSS THE CUBAN BORDER ILLEGALLY YOU WILL BE THROWN INTO POLITICAL PRISON TO ROT...
IF YOU CROSS THE CANADIAN BORDER ILLEGALLY YOU GET;
A DRIVERS LICENSE,
SOCIAL SECURITY CARD,
SUBSIDIZED RENT OR A LOAN TO BUY A HOUSE, FREE EDUCATION, FREE HEALTH CARE,
A LOBBYIST IN OTTAWA
BILLIONS OF DOLLARS WORTH OF PUBLIC DOCUMENTS PRINTED IN YOUR LANGUAGE
THE RIGHT TO CARRY YOUR COUNTRY'S FLAG WHILE YOU PROTEST THAT YOU DON'T GET ENOUGH RESPECT
AND, IN MANY INSTANCES, YOU CAN VOTE.
I JUST WANTED TO MAKE SURE I HAD A FIRM GRASP ON THE SITUATION!!!
A firm grasp on the situation? Where to begin?
Second, I think you've confused illegal immigrants with immigrants in general. Illegal immigrants do not generally have a great deal of political influence, and no one who can afford a lobbyist needs to sneak across the border. Printing government documents in a variety of languages is not done, for the most part, for the benefit of illegals; there are lots of people legally in the country who aren't fluent in either official language, and in any event it's often in our interest to ensure that they're informed about things like, say, communicable diseases and traffic rules.
But let's forget about facts and focus on the truthiness of this complaint: that other countries treat illegal immigrants as criminals and punish them harshly, while Canada treats them mildly and even generously. While the precise details of the email are at best distortions, the fundamental truth is that yes, we are nicer to immigrants than the other countries listed. Is there something wrong with that?
"But they're ILLEGALS!" one might protest. "They ARE criminals, so why don't we treat them accordingly, like those other countries do?"
Well, for one thing, I don't know what you've heard about the living conditions in North Korea, but you probably shouldn't rely too much on the official propaganda about how gloriously peachy life is under the Dear Leader. The North Korean authorities know perfectly well that their standard of living is not the envy of the world, and they quite rightly are suspicious of the motives of anyone sneaking into their country. Probably, if you're sneaking into North Korea, you are a spy and an enemy of the state.
Contrast this with Canada. Sure, someone sneaking across our border may be a spy or perhaps a terrorist, but more likely they're desperate people who just want to live here. (Spies and terrorists, if they're at all competent, will usually enter the country legally.) So there's a qualitative difference between your typical illegal immigrant in Canada and in despotic countries: Our illegal immigrants come here because they like us and want to join us.
Now, why might that be? The short answer is that we're a rich country. We may not feel rich, but we've got cars and houses and cell phones and lots of food and public health care and clean water and it's generally safe to walk the streets at night. We are fabulously well-off by global and historical standards.
And that's not just a coincidence. Sure, we may like to believe that our wealth is a result of our being hardworking and resourceful, but that's only part of it. People everywhere are hardworking and resourceful. The difference is that we, like the rest of the developed liberal democracies, have embraced the Rule of Law and the basic idea of human rights. That, among other things, makes it more worthwhile being hardworking and resourceful.
It also means that we apply these notions of human rights and such when we deal with lawbreakers, and that includes people who cross the border illegally. We don't, indeed can't, make distinctions between people with rights and people without rights; humans have rights, period. If we did make exceptions for this or that class of people, because they're foreigners or they speak the wrong language or didn't happen to fill out the right paperwork before crowding into a shipping container to escape brutal oppression overseas, well, they wouldn't be human rights anymore. They'd be "people we like" rights. And that's unprincipled, and incompatible with the rule of law and the reason we're so prosperous in the first place.
Seriously, O Anonymous Chain Letter Author, do you really mean to suggest that we should be more like North Korea?