I am an immigrant and I am a concealed gun carry permit holder. As an advocate of coherent immigration policies and the right to own guns I find the ongoing debate on both topics ironic and a perfect example of how public policy is distorted in the American consciousness.

I am not a citizen of the United States. I do not vote and cannot hold office, yet I have a permit to carry a weapon on my person. I can legally live and work in the United States and I can legally buy the weapons my wallet can afford.

Yet, for many Americans the irony of me legally owning and carrying weapons while not a US citizen is lost to them. Reporters and politicians also haven’t noticed the irony of arguing to keep immigrants out while allowing them to arm themselves.

On one hand, the right, generally the Republicans, advocate that immigration policy be tied to secure borders while the left, generally the Democrats, want to ban assault weapons to cure the social ills affecting the community.

This is irony at its best.

For the anti-immigration rhetoric the notion lies on two primary arguments; the first is that immigrants should “legally” enter the country and any immigration reform must start from the notion that the nation’s border are unsecure.

As an individual that has run the gauntlet of the immigration system of the United States I can tell you first-hand that it is so cumbersome and illogical that even federal employees tasked with enforcing the immigration laws of the United States are overwhelmed by the system.

Until recently there were two opposing bureaucracies tasked with processing immigrants and foreign visitors to the United States. One, Customs and Immigration was tasked with welcoming and processing visitors into the country. The other, namely the US Border Patrol focused on locating and expelling immigrants that were “out-of-status”, or undocumented, or as some like to refer to them, “illegal”. Even the words used to refer to immigrants, subject to expulsion, was convoluted at best; some were referred to as “out-of-status” while others were referred to as “undocumented”.

The public and the media were the ones that labeled these people as “illegal”.

Shortly after September 11, the United States reacted by repositioning its bureaucracy to better deal with the realities of having been attacked on US soil and began to consolidate various bureaucracies into one. Now instead of one agency tasked with welcoming immigrants and another tasked with expelling them from American soil, we ended up with an agency tasked with serving both functions.

Making this new dynamic even worse is that the immigration laws of the United States are so disjointed that there is no straight forward way to legally immigrate to the US from Mexico and most other countries. To legally immigrate to the United States from Mexico requires putting your life on hold for fifteen to twenty years, and even then your approval may not be readily granted.

For Mexicans, today there are very few avenues for legal immigration to the US. The first is to add oneself to a waiting list of twelve or more years. During that waiting period you cannot get married, or have children and you must remain gainfully employed while waiting. If you decide to get married, or have a child or even change jobs your “status” changes to a new tier and you must start from the beginning again. If you are a minor when you add yourself to the waiting list and you turn eighteen, your “status” has changed again, and thus you are relegated back to the end of the line.

And contrary to popular belief it is difficult for children to bring in their parents or vice-versa.

The second option is to find and marry a US citizen, thus “fast-tracking” you into the system. This, of course, is illegal if your marriage is one of convenience.

The third option is have enough cash on hand to start, operate a significant business concern and then pay fees and lawyers to fast-track you into America. In other words, if you are wealthy you get special treatment.

Finally, under NAFTA there are special provisions for specialized professionals, such as lawyers and accountants to fast-track into America. These are not as easy as they sound but it is an option. There are a few other options such as “refugee” statuses and others but those are very rare and usually unattainable for Mexican citizens.

In between all of these options there are temporary processes where immigrants can enter the country on a temporary basis. These range from tourist and business permits to student visas. These are not intended for immigration but because the system is so convoluted they become an option for the gaming the process.

Through all of this there are employers in the United States demanding workers to fill open vacancies. And there are Mexicans willing to do the work those jobs require.

As is typical of the special interest rhetoric the argument that those jobs depress the local economy or that they pay sub-par wages or that there are Americans who will do the work is easily dismissed when the fact that the jobs exist is recognized. If the jobs exist then there must be a need for them.

This leads us to another reality, a human will look for what’s best for him and his family and if a job is available to better their life and the only thing holding them back from that job is a line on a piece of paper then the reality becomes one of how do I get to where the job is.

And this is where the gaming of the system begins.

The second rhetorical point from the right is that the borders must be secured. The unpleasant fact for those arguing this point is that the borders are as secure as they will get. In fact, after 9/11 there has not been another foreign attack on US soil, and none of the 9/11 killers came through Mexico.

There is no such thing as a completely secure border. Take a look at countries like Cuba, North Korea or the old East Germany. Did these totalitarian governments have truly secure borders? Or, were their citizens caged inside their borders giving the illusion of a secure border?

In reality, the US must balance the needs of safe-guarding the homeland from danger while balancing the freedoms a Democracy demands. The fact is that the borders are as secure as a free society will allow.

And now let’s take a look at the other side of the isle. The rhetoric from the left about gun control is just as idiotic as the right’s argument that the borders must first be secured. The left’s argument for gun control lies on two central issues, they want universal background checks and that citizens have no need for “assault weapons”.

Again the rhetoric masks the realities of the world we live in.

Any gun or rifle can be an “assault weapon”.

Take for example the shot gun. Everyone agrees that hunters should own shot guns. Even President Obama is pictured shooting one.

But did you know that a shot gun can be considered an “assault weapon”?

The United States military trains and deploys soldiers with shot guns and police forces deploy SWAT units with shot guns. The shot gun becomes an assault weapon when it is deployed as such. Any shot gun can become an “assault weapon” by simply using specialized ammunition or modifying it.

In other words, a gun or rifle becomes an assault weapon once it is configured as an assault weapon by modifications or attachments attached to it.

If the argument was that citizens should not be allowed to own specific weapons then the proper terminology should be used. For example, a rifle fitted for a .223 or 5.56 type round should not be owned by the general populace, should be the position.

Unfortunately this won’t work either because the rifles fitted for this type of ammunition are generally described as “assault weapons” but in fact are no different than any other type of rifle with the exception of how it looks.

In fact, a .22 round kills just as well as .223 bullet, if properly deployed.

And therein lies the problem for advocates of gun control, you can’t readily tell someone they cannot own an “assault weapon” because in fact any weapon can be deployed as an assault weapon and therefore all guns would have to be banned.

This is why the rhetoric is used because the facts negate the original argument and hides the fact that true gun control would require banning all guns.

In regards to the notion of “universal background” checks that argument fails when reality is acknowledged. The fact is that guns are restricted under the law already. Most owners are subject to background checks prior to purchasing a gun.

But what about gun shows and person-to-person gun purchases goes the argument.

Again the problem is the rhetoric. No matter what type of laws you put in place the only thing that happens is that people are forced to circumvent the law. Those intent on breaking the law, such as to commit murder, will not stop to ask themselves, oh well I can’t buy a gun so I just won’t commit the murder.

In the real world it doesn’t work like that.

Take a look at my country, Mexico that has some of the most restrictive gun laws in the world. Guns are used in crimes almost on a daily basis by criminals. Law abiding citizens are left buying guns on the black market or they become victims to gun violence or both.

When I was young, almost everyone I knew had access to a gun, yet they were illegal in Mexico. The problem was that the guns were unsafe, or worse yet, the gun-holder did not know how to properly handle a gun making it even more unsafe. Since all gun transactions were completed behind closed doors, you never had the opportunity to practice and properly learn how to handle the gun and that made it even more dangerous.

Gun control does not end access to guns; it just makes them more dangerous.

The laws are in place and background checks are already a necessity almost everywhere.

Unfortunately the rhetoric across the media and among the people continues and the reality is that only one thing is being accomplished with the gun debate; the gun and ammunition makers are getting richer and when the dust settles nothing would have changed. The guns will still be sold and the criminals will still kill people.

The irony of all this rhetoric is that the arguments on all sides, whether it is immigration or gun control accomplishes nothing more than further confusing a confused electorate.

Immigration will continue unabated as the jobs are demanding it and the guns will continue to be sold.

All of this is happening because in the land of rhetoric, the laws are designed to appease special interest groups. And that is why we have disjointed gun control and immigration laws.

And guess what? The original problem remains unsolved.

Ironically the Republicans don’t want me in the country and the Democrats don’t want me to legally own guns. And yet, here I am and I own so-called assault weapons.

Martin Paredes

Martín Paredes is a Mexican immigrant who built his business on the U.S.-Mexican border. As an immigrant, Martín brings the perspective of someone who sees México as a native through the experience...

One reply on “The Irony of the Debate: Immigration and Gun Control”

  1. Democrats do not want to take your guns away. We just want sensible gun control. If a driver’s license is required to drive a car then a license should be required to buy a gun. You are buying into the same false arguments that the Republicans are throwing out.

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