Close Readings: Judson Phillips’s immigration proposal

by danbrooks

If you haven’t heard of Judson Phillips, it’s probably because you haven’t yet signed up for Tea Party Nation, the national-level organizer of Tea Party organizations that sends you a ton of emails, many of which are titled “Draft” or, once, “Do Not Send.” Judson Phillips may be an idiot. As the organizer of the first national Tea Party Unity Convention, he may also be one of the few identifiable leaders in the still-amorphous movement. The Tea Party Nation website is either the canary in the mine or one arbitrarily drawn constellation in the exploded galaxy that is the Tea Party, depending on whose side you took in the series of schisms that immediately followed its formation. I prefer the first interpretation, since A) the alternative is to have no concrete information about the Tea Party at all and B) Phillips is hilarious. Case in point: his recent screed/policy proposal regarding illegal immigration, which is the subject of today’s Close Reading. Text after the jump.

The Folly of The Arizona Immigration Law

by Judson Phillips

Conservatives have been ecstatic about SB 1070, the Arizona immigration law. The law was a response to the lack of any effort by the Federal government to enforce our immigration laws.

Arizona has been ground zero for illegal immigration.  It is the super highway for those seeking to smuggle migrants, drugs or hopefully not, weapons of mass destruction.

While conservatives have gone gaga over the law, most have seem to forgotten, it is a waste of time.  It has a huge hole in it and as long as Obama runs this administration, there will be a huge hole.

Officials in the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement have said they would simply refuse to accept illegals discovered by Arizona officials and turned over to them.

As long as the Obama regime is controlling the Federal Government, nothing is going to happen. Indeed, the Obama regime is now allowing illegal aliens detained to post immigration bonds, which helps them then apply for legal status and also they have stopped most removal proceedings.

The Federal government is not the answer.

How is this for an answer? Each state passes a law that says, if you are in this country illegally, it is a crime for you to be in our state. We will punish you with a five year prison sentence, which you must serve every day of.

While liberals will scream about the cost of this, the simple fact is, states will not be filling up their prisons with illegal aliens under these laws. As soon as this law passes, illegals will flee the state like rats leaving a sinking ship.

It is a simple plan and one that will work, until we get a real American back in the Oval Office.

The most interesting feature of Phillips’s approach, besides the varying number of spaces after each sentence, is his early mismatch of voice to purpose. He is presumably writing a persuasive essay in which he encourages the reader to consider his immigration proposal, but he adopts an expository style out of the gate. The first two paragraphs don’t tell us what Phillips’s opinions are or even that he has one, but instead offer us what is ostensibly information.

The quality of that information is, to put it politely, questionable. One questions whether US immigration policy has really been characterized by “the lack of any effort by the Federal government to enforce our immigration laws,” and one questions whether Arizona has really become a “super highway for…hopefully not, weapons of mass destruction.”

That second quote is rhetorically odd, since it amounts to saying, “hopefully this thing I just presented as fact isn’t true.” The admission suggests that Phillips is working with a hybrid form, which we will call the persuasive expository essay. What he is arguing for—yet, paradoxically, what his audience already accepts—is the validity of the quote-unquote facts he deploys over the course of his argument. These sort-of facts support a thesis that is not “you should consider my immigration proposal,” so much as “the immigration situation is really bad.”

This framework explains why Phillips devotes so much space to the “facts” supporting his proposal—Arizona is a lawless corridor for drugs, nukes and landscapers; the Obama “regime” has ceased to enforce immigration policy—and so little space to his actual idea. It also explains why his immigration proposal is, to use a technical term of political economy, completely fucking retarded.

Phillips’s proposal that we imprison illegal immigrants for five years apiece amounts to a plan to feed and house the country’s entire illegal population at state expense. It’s an odd solution, coming from a man who presumably objects to immigrants because of the undue burden they place on social services.

Phillips’s counter to this anticipated argument captures the other feature of his writing, which I would describe as unintentionally hilarious. “While liberals will scream about the cost of this,” he writes, “the simple fact is, states will not be filling up their prisons with illegal aliens under these laws. As soon as this law passes, illegals will flee the state like rats leaving a sinking ship.”

In his haste to compare illegal immigrants to rats, Phillips has inadvertently likened the states that follow his plan to sinking ships. Moves like that remind us that the much-reported data suggesting that Tea Partiers are, on the whole, better educated than the average American does not necessarily mean they are smarter. Phillips is a lawyer, but you wouldn’t know it from sentences like this:

Indeed, the Obama regime is now allowing illegal aliens detained to post immigration bonds, which helps them then apply for legal status and also they have stopped most removal proceedings.

This particular combination of errors—the jump from a subordinate to an independent clause using the conjunction “and also,” with an ambiguous pronoun to mask the subject shift—is especially common on the Writing proficiency section of the SAT; I used to instruct my students to label it JNE, or “just not English.”

Pretty English sentences aren’t the point of Phillips’s message, though. His point is that illegal immigration is a big problem—so big that he’s willing to make extreme, obviously unworkable pronouncements about what we should do about it. The real purpose of the essay seems to be establishing his right-wing bona fides, which border on straight-up racism without actually touching. The big wink comes in his closing sentence:

It is a simple plan and one that will work, until we get a real American back in the Oval Office.

Dude, you can just say “white.”