Frank George is passionate about stopping illegal immigration. He is a Minuteman. By placing Frank in the residence of a family of illegal immigrants for 30 days, Morgan Spurlock—in the truest possible form—placed reason against reason, and argument against argument. Temporarily—but long enough for significant revelation—Spurlock imprisoned the passions of one argument within the embodiment of its opposite. I cannot imagine a more honest approach to the immigration debate than the one set forth in these 30 days. I disagree with Frank’s position on immigration law. I also think the Minutemen should allow the federal government to enforce border security.
Frank’s reactions to illegal immigrants are often emotional and rarely rational. Although most illegal immigrants are committed to assimilating into American society by the second generation, Frank worries about “losing the country” to Mexican influence. He worries about immigrants taking jobs from Americans, which, from an economic standpoint, cannot be considered a rational fear; if there is, as Frank assumes, a shortage of jobs, the immigrants will not find work, and will soon stop coming. When illegal immigrants chant “U.S.A.,” Frank responds by claiming “they don’t mean that.” Instead of embracing them for their love of his country, Frank irrationally begins worrying about their non-existent plans for revolution.
“We are a nation of laws,” Frank repeats authoritatively, as if he is unaware that every country in the world is a nation of laws. The Minutemen have unwisely taken the laws of their country into their own hands. When a democratic government fails to create or enforce a law, it is not the role of the citizen to do the job for them; it is the role of the citizen to try to elect legislators and executives that will create or enforce the desired law.
I am most concerned by Frank’s unhealthy attitude toward law. For a democracy to function fairly, citizens must concern themselves with whether or not laws are good, but Frank concerns himself with whether or not laws are followed. In a democracy, this is not the proper role for an ordinary citizen like Frank, but is instead reserved for trained law enforcement employees. Frank’s emotional enforcement of laws is frightening, especially when we reflect that Frank has not seriously questioned the virtue of the laws he is enforcing. If enough voters in a free democracy develop Frank’s attitude—placing emotional reaction before rational deliberation—that free democracy will degenerate into a fascist one. When we consider the attitudes of the Minutemen, we should remember Friedrich Hayek’s warning about the origins of German fascism: “From the saintly and single-minded idealist to the fanatic is often but a step.”
I believe a free flow of people, money, goods and ideas between the United States and its neighbors will bring benefits that outweigh the risks. In addition to being the original source of American society, immigration has, in nearly every historical instance, contributed to prosperity and freedom in the United States. Therefore I believe current immigration laws—the ones being enforced by the rogue Frank George—are bad laws, and I think those who break them are actually helping the United States. I agree with Martin Luther King, Jr., that “one has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.” Despite his extreme position, even Frank, upon witnessing the Gonzales’ quality of life in Mexico, had to admit that what is just and what is lawful do not always coincide.
But Frank’s realization is limited in scope. It is superficially commendable that Frank has stopped serving as a spotter on the border since visiting the Gonzales family, but his attitude has not changed. I think it is unlikely that Frank’s attitude will ever change, because it is deeply rooted in his collectivistic philosophy. Frank sees himself as a member of a privileged group—Americans—and to diminish the exclusivity of that group would be detrimental to Frank’s feelings of superiority as a member. Because I subscribe to the philosophy of individualism, I can see the folly of Frank’s collectivistic tendencies, but Frank cannot. When I see a Mexican crossing the border illegally, I see a rational, self-interested, individual human like myself. Frank sees an outsider and a criminal. Even presented with the evidence that illegal immigrants can be as human as he, as he acknowledged the Gonzales’ were, Frank rationalizes their human condition out of his conscience by considering them an exception to the rule, and continues to work with the Minutemen.