Free Speech and Immigration

Frequent readers of this blog will know that I am a strong supporter of open immigration, and have substantial problems with how we are effectively criminalizing poor people looking for work. 

However, it is perhaps most important to defend the free speech of people with whom one disagrees.  A while back, my employee accidentally sent a private email from his private account expressing opinions about stronger defense of the border and enforcement of immigration laws (opinions that run counter to my own) to a government employee with whom we interact fairly frequently.  The government employee's first impulse was to threaten that our company may be liable under anti-discrimination laws for such speech, but to their credit quickly agreed that it was inappropriate for a federal employee to take any action based on private speech.  But that first, initial reaction was interesting.

It seems a professor here in the Phoenix area is facing sanction for similar reasons.

The case involves Walter Kehowski, a math professor at Glendale
Community College"”part of the Maricopa County Community College
District (MCCCD) system"”who e-mailed a single Thanksgiving message to
the entire MCCCD community. On the day before Thanksgiving, Kehowski
sent an e-mail
containing the text of George Washington's "Thanksgiving Day
Proclamation of 1789" over the district's "announcements" listserv.
Kehowski had found the Proclamation on Pat Buchanan's blog, and included a link to that webpage in his e-mail. That citation would have dire consequences.
 
Within weeks, five MCCCD employees complained that Kehowski's
e-mail was "derogatory" and "hostile" because the link he'd included"”if
you decided to open it"”led to a page where Buchanan also posted his
opinions of immigration. MCCCD soon held an Initial Assessment
of the complaints, and decided that since Kehowski's e-mail was not
work-related but rather expressed a "social comment," he had violated
MCCCD's e-mail policies, which limit e-mails to work-related
information. MCCCD reacted on March 9 by forcing Kehowski to cease
teaching, placing him on immediate administrative leave, and
recommending that he be terminated....

MCCCD has also found Kehowski guilty of violating the Equal Employment Opportunity policy.

Again we have government sanctioning speech based on its content, a definite no no, particularly since there was a pretty clear precedent for other people using the email system ant that particular listserv to pass on social commentary without sanction.  Its clear, though, that many in the college's community found the speech somehow in violation of discrimination laws.

However, this is the irony I find amazing:  State, Federal, and Maricopa County law require that businesses discriminate against undocumented aliens.  I can be fined and sent to jail for not discriminating against them.  Maricopa county, which runs this particular community college, employs a sheriff that revels in anti-immigrant rhetoric that probably runs more extreme than even Pat Buchanan and who prides himself on how many illegal immigrants he has rounded up this week (he.  In this context, how can it be illegal to advocate for enforcement of current law?  How can it be illegal to advocate for policies aggressively pursued by your own employer? 

Any viewpoint in speech needs to be tolerated, but I find it especially odd that government institutions are unable to tolerate speech that upholds what is essentially the official position of the government.

  • Dan

    I take issue with your open support of free immigration. I'm not against immigration in general, but I think there needs to be a limit. Just how many people do you think this country can support? 400 million? 500 million? 1 billion? Believe me, the population would easily go that high with a completely open-door immigration policy, and the rise in crime, traffic, pollution, decline in open space, would be immense.

  • Mitchell Young

    Mr. Coyote,

    I find your claim that the government is forcing you to 'discriminate' against 'poor people looking for work' unconvincing. After all, if you want to employ, say, poor Mexicans, you could simply move to Mexico and open a business. No one is forcing you to stay here.