Sunday, June 10, 2007

What Do Paris Hilton & Illegal Immigration Have in Common?

Here is a question: What is the link between Paris Hilton and illegal immigration? No, it's not the argument that the Hiltons use illegal immigrants to take care of their California home. It is the fact that both cases represent a sense by Americans that others don't play by the rules. With Paris Hilton it was her sense that somehow she is being treated unfairly. With the recent immigration bill it was the sense of millions of Americans that illegal immigrants were being given unfair advantages.

Americans have long prided themselves on the idea that all citizens are equal before the law. Obviously, given the issue of slavery in this country followed by the unfair treatment of Afro-Americans, this ideal was often violated. (Indeed, cynics could argue that the reality was that white Americans with access to good lawyers were equal before the law, and the rest of Americans, including poor white Americans, had to take their chances.) The fact, though, that a cultural belief may be a myth doesn't mean that the belief doesn't have power.

The idea that Paris Hilton should somehow receive special treatment ticked off most Americans, including the judge who had sentenced her. The idea that a young, rich, and beautiful Paris Hilton shouldn't have to go to jail even though she had violated the terms of her suspended sentence didn't sit will with Americans. In her case, Americans apparently believe that the rules apply to everyone, including the rich and infamous.

Likewise, Americans opposed to the immigration bill seized on the word amnesty to describe the bill's provisions to allow illegal immigrants a way to get American citizenship. To such opponents, these provisions would allow illegal immigrants a way to "jump ahead" of those who have entered the United States legally. These provisions were seen as giving an unfair advantage over those who came to this country legally and played by the rules.

Paris Hilton didn't receive the support of even her fellow Hollywood celebrities when the judge put her back in jail. As the Washington Post article linked to above shows, Paris is learning quickly from her recent experiences. Now she is telling us, through her public relations staff, how much she is "learning and growing" from her experiences. It is still an open question whether the supporters of the recent immigration bill will be as quick to learn as Paris.

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