Saturday, February 20, 2016

The problem with the immigration debate

Is that it is framed as heroic people who care versus racist Americans who would throw babies in the river to protect their bank accounts.  I'm sure there are some extremes who feel that way about immigrants.  I'm also sure there are extremes on the other side of the debate who don't care about America's interests in the least as they invoke collective guilt against any Americans who might suffer and die at the hands of illegal immigrants.  In fact, I know there are.  When the case of Kathryn Steinle was brought up in the debate, on more than one website and blog, defenders of illegals dropped the 'look what Americans did to the Indians' rebuttal.  If you think of that, what else does it mean than a thinly veiled 'Americans get what they have coming because their ancestors with a certain skin color did things to other people of a certain skin color.' 

Therefore, I would say there is a certain lack of concern for the wellbeing of Americans by some in the immigration debate.  So we can probably safely rework the narrative to say that it is two groups of heroic people trying to find the way to do the right thing against two extremes who don't care about one or the other groups of people who are impacted by the immigration problem.

So with that, we realize that neither approach is without its extremes who might well have very un-Christian motives or beliefs.  It's no better, in my opinion, to dismiss the suffering of Americans than it is to dismiss the suffering of Latino immigrants. 

So what to do?  Now that we've established nether side of the debate is without its extremes, rather than just slander and besmirch a group for not conforming to a single position, we might actually be forced to look at facts and evidence and details. 

That is beyond me and my humble little blog, by the way.  It is why I sympathize with people on both sides of the problem.  It's why I'm slow to condemn others for disagreeing with me.  Perhaps if I had a bunch of immigrants living in my home, or I lived along the border, I might be quicker to condemn others.  But since I'm not directly impacted by the immigration debate, I'm slow to judge others who are.

You're not born here, you're not an islander.
I will say this.  A cursory glance at world wide immigration policies seems to suggest that America's policies are quite liberal by comparison.  At worst, we seem to be on par with many countries in terms of how easy it is to become a citizen and what rights a person has once they have done so.  At best, we are far better than other countries who make it very difficult, if not impossible, to become citizens.  And in some of those countries, being a citizen never quit amounts to what being born in those countries will give you. 

So let's not continue this notion that America is some racist, evil nation that throws immigrants out into the water when the rest of the world does walk with the angels where immigration is concerned.  Sure, there will always be some who don't want the latest new group to come to the party.  But despite resistance by some, we have always been an open nation to legal immigration. The only ones who ever resisted violently as a matter of policy against people coming to make a new home on our shores were, ironically, the American Indians.  But that's for another post.

America is, in the end, a liberal and open country.  At worst on par with the better countries in terms of immigration, at best far better than many.  That's why a girl I knew from Russia said what she said so many years ago.  I was working on my graduate degree, and she was one of that group of students who came to America after the fall of the USSR.  Her name was Larissa.  She went on and on about how inferior America was.  She didn't like our culture.  Our society.  Our people.  And yet she was working diligently to become a citizen.  I once asked her why, if she seems to despise so much about America, is she wanting to become a citizen?  Easy, she said.  Because the places she would like to live would be too difficult.  She would be a little old lady before becoming a citizen in those countries.  America is ten times easier. 

So why the problem?  First, because Latin American countries are a mess.  A freaking mess.  Poverty, corruption, crime, drugs and conflicts are pushing inordinate numbers of Latinos across the border and into the US. 

Second, our border.  There are few if any places in the world where such a long border exists between one nation and another culture filled with people perpetually trying to get in.  That puts a massive strain on the system.  And since people from Latin America are probably like people in general, they don't want to wait.  They don't want to be the ones who starve or die at the hands of criminals and corrupt governments just so some others get across to the promised land.

Third, because of the backlog and the subsequent desire people have to circumvent it, there has arisen a veritable black market of immigrant smugglers.  Bet your bottom dollar that care and concern for the well being of the immigrants are not top on the smugglers' list.  That makes the entire situation look worse than it needs to be.

Fourth, American employees have added to the allure of coming over illegally by hiring illegal immigrants.  It's true.  Illegals no doubt heard that if they could just get here, they could find work and not have to endure the processes of becoming legal.  Americans would hire them for peanuts, but at least peanuts can be eaten.

Fifth, because so many were willing to just leave their Latin American homes, there has been no real pressure on the Latino governments to, oh, do a better job not starving, screwing, oppressing and killing their own people.  That was a criticism by even pro-immigrant activists back in the day.  In fact, the irony is that I remember some Democratic critics of Reagan blasting his amnesty back in the 80s because it wouldn't compel the Mexican government (and other governments) to do a better job.  It was essentially paying off their credit cards of corruption, rather than making them change. 

Sixth, the influx of illegals is unchecked and does do harm to Americans living here.  Assuming you don't think that the only good American is a dead American, concern for Americans already here is important.

Seventh, all of this is framed between extremes, though to be honest, the extreme of controlling immigration is not usually advanced by most thinkers in the debate.  That is, they aren't racists who say keep people out because they are the wrong race.  The other side, as well, is not defined by its extremes.  If there were people on social media and the blogosphere who invoked collective guilt against white Americans, most thinkers representing an open border and amnesty position don't advocate that.  So let's be careful about generalizing.

Nonetheless, missing in the debate is the fact that America is a liberal nation with immigration.  We are very open and welcoming.  We allow people to come in by the millions.  Upwards of three-quarter of a million people become citizens every year.  But with the strain that illegals put on our system, with the threat of terrorist cells coming into our country under the radar, with the ongoing and increasing drug problem coming across the border, as well as the growing problem of human slavery reemerging in the world, it's logical that we need to do something.

America's future identity?
I'm not in favor of building a wall.  It won't work.  It isn't as if illegals will suddenly throw up their hands and turn around.  It will be billions spent to simply cause the black market of immigrant runners to find new ways around the obstacle.  Plus, it invokes that feeling of Cold War Berlin.  I remember it was a point of pride that America was not the country with walls.  That was the Soviet Union.  And in the wake of 9/11, there has been a growing trend for some Conservatives to embrace more and more tactics and methods that were once condemned by those very Conservatives.  The point of Conservatism is to face the enemy while conserving the past.  It isn't to become like the enemy and say it's OK because we're the good guys. 

So a bit of a mess I'll admit.  Far more complex than just building bridges or walls.  Far more complex than evil white racists versus beautiful people who care.  Far more complex than America shuns immigrants and are against all immigrants when it's clear we let them in by the millions.  Far more complex, in the end, than just about anyone is admitting, except for some of the Republican Candidates.  I'll give them that.  Kasich and Rubio are two who have laid out their reasoning for why they want to do what they want to do.  They've actually reminded people that America is not against legal immigration.  They have explained exactly how and why we need to refuse the Democratic narrative, but also need to reform the current system.  Bush and Carson might have done so as well, but I've not heard them yet.  Unfortunately, while Trump never said he's against immigrants, and did make it clear that he is speaking of illegal immigrants, the tone and content of his rhetoric fit right into the artificial narrative of the liberal press and the Democratic candidates.  And worse, the Pope's response to Trump seemed to do nothing other than fit into that artificial narrative as well. 

So perhaps if nothing else this latest kerfuffle will be a chance for Republicans to seize the moment and reclaim the narrative.  To attack the anti-American notion that one of the most open countries in the world is some racist compound with walls and barbed wire.   But perhaps not advocating for walls and barbed wire might be the best way to start reclaiming the debate.


  1. I was considering a longer comment but... nah, you're naivete is kind of adorable. ;-)

    But I will remind you that, back in 2012, Romney proposed a system designed for self-deportation (for example, one facet would be to enforce companies to hire citizens - no jobs, illegals go back home). Now, can you think of ANY border enforcement policy that is more mild than that?

    Yet how was Romney's immigration policy seen by the public?

    I disagree with John Derbyshire about a lot of things, but he was spot on when he described: "the phenomenon I call "hate creep," in which milder and milder opinions or policies come to be thought of as "hateful.""

    Debate has been rendered impossible, and ultimately they have created the monster they feared.

  2. :)

    My son made an interesting quip. He said the difference between Reagan and Trump is that Reagan came to tear down a wall, and Trump comes to build one. My biggest problem with the wall, apart from the sheer symbolism of it, is that it will be billions spent for something that will eventually be circumvented anyway. I heard someone ask why the UN hasn't stepped into Mexico and try to bring stability back to the area. That was an interesting idea. Not that it would work. The UN and all. But the point being that until these countries get their acts together, we're going to be fighting this like fighting water leaking into a basement. No matter what you do, if the water keeps coming, it's going to get in eventually.

    But Derbyshire is absolutely right. We are at a point where anyone who even slightly strays from the Leftwing movement is hateful and evil. You can wrap your opinions in more love and tenderness than a Valentine card, and in the end, you'll still be a racist, hatemonger.

  3. Well... you and your son are falling trap to what Buckley warned about moral equivalency. Surely we can understand the difference between a wall put up to keep people in vs one to keep people out. If not... well heck Vatican city has walls! Does that suddenly make Catholic Capital like the USSR? By that logic, there is no difference between your house and a prison because both have locks on the doors. (Actually I wonder if those who are so eager for America to be like Europe, realizes a lot of european countries now have border fences.)

    Not necessarily saying I'm for a fence (though like many, I'm reaching the point that anything would be preferable), but I am against the argument that somehow putting one up will make us Soviet (especially when the Canadian border would, so far, remain naked).

  4. As I said, one problem I have is that it won't work. Not unless we literally build up a wall, barbed wire, machine gun post and militarized fortress along the border. And then, yeah. That does start invoking some images I'm not comfortable with.

    That, and the propensity for Conservatives to argue for torture (not waterboarding only, but full blown torture) suggests that they wouldn't care if the comparisons were made. And that is my problem. I always told my congregations not to live up to the negative stereotypes. I would suggest this is a case where that applies. In addition to being ineffective, it would play into all that proponents of the Leftist juggernaut accuse non-conformists of being.

  5. Yeah but like has been pointed out: When all solutions are yanked off the table, eventually any solutions will be sought.

    It's rather what we're seeing today in society. It's almost verboten to spank children (heck by now there's no telling how narrow the acceptable discipline range is), so they grow more and more out of control until they're rampaging adults, and then end up getting shot because of their misbehavior.

    I can understand the imagery being uncomfortable (and like I said, I don't think it's the be-all end-all, we'd need at least additional internal measures as well), but there needs to be some consideration and realization that if the imagery isn't used, it'll eventually go from being just imagery, to a literal copy. And that's what I fear, that we may have been able to go without a wall awhile back, but that we've passed that point. Who knows how much longer until a wall becomes the nicest solution. Don't know if you or I will live to see that moment, but your boys might.


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