I was watching Gangs of New York the other night. Great movie. A large part of the story is the conflict between Daniel Day Lewis, and the self proclaimed "natives", and the Irish immigrants, who are greeted on the docks with verbal and physical abuse. The movie takes place in 1862 and I started thinking about the dynamics of American Civil War era immigration laws, policies and attitudes, and those of today. People often say that virtually everyone in the United States is an immigrant, but what does that really mean? Also, we seem to be talking about different things when we talk about immigration reform. There are plenty of laws on the books to address immigration, so what exactly needs to be reformed?
I will fight no more...forever
2 pct of the United States population are native Americans. That means that they have a lineage back to the population that crossed the land bridge from Asia 10,000 - 12,000 years ago. Starting with the Spanish colonies in Florida in the 1500's, everyone that came to this country has a lineage of immigration. It wasn't until 1790 that the federal government created a Naturalization Law, and exclusion laws banning some immigrants from entering the country (Chinese) did not come about until 1865. Westward expansion depended on immigrant workers. For the next 100 years, federal immigration laws were discriminatory and favored Western European immigrants. It was not until 1965 that the discriminatory country origin law was abolished, and the current laws were created. Since then, there have been immigration control laws passed in the 1990's and early 2000's that require more stringent screening for criminal history, means tests and potential terrorist links.
Failure to communicate
"Our immigration system is broken" the headlines scream. That briefs well as we used to say, but what does it mean exactly? What needs to be changed then? Our immigration laws on the books are supposedly non-discrimanatory and quotas are allocated for the various categories of immigration. Sounds reasonable. So what are we talking about? I would argue we are not talking about whole system in general but how to address three things really: First, The immigrants living in this country that have not been authorized under the law (for simplicity's sake I will include the DACA individuals who are here lawfully...for now). Second, how to process those immigrants that arrive at our borders trying to gain entry without prior approval. Third, how to secure the borders. As usual, in this country, if you watch the mainstream media, or attempt to try to understand this issue, you will be led to believe it is some sort of insurmountable problem. I would argue that the majority of the problem is simply the current administration's misapplication of the law as well as attempts to revert to outdated and irrelevant policies.
No seas estupido
The population of illegal immigrants in this country is estimated to be roughly 11 million. How do you address that? Well, to solve the same problem in 1986, the Reagan administration created a pathway for those types of individuals to obtain legal immigrant status. He basically allowed most of them to obtain citizenship. This way they and the country both benefit. The individuals obtain citizenship status and the country gets a legal workforce and contributors to society. It worked once, why not seriously consider it again? Next, how do you address the large numbers of immigrants showing up at our borders (primarily with Mexico) requesting entry without prior approval? First, face reality...if this is the new normal, then address it without being stupid. Locking people up and separating children falls in to the stupid category. Threatening Mexico to "do more" falls in the stupid category. How about increasing legal immigration quotas for example?
That way, a large number will most likely apply the right way and not try to trek to the borders. Or, why don't we try to address the problems in their country that is causing the exodus? That would require long term planning of course, which is not a phrase familiar to the current administration. It would cost to much you say? How about a cost benefit analysis of that versus deploying the armed forces, a massive border patrol presence, paying off the Mexicans, paying contractors to build a wall etc? Lastly, I agree that every country needs to monitor and secure their borders. I would argue the primary reason for this is to ensure violent criminals and terrorists, who want to do harm, do not get in to the country. Maria with her three children from Guatemala does not fall in to this category. Or Joe with his DUI. So the solution is to build a solid wall?! Stupid. Ask the Romans how this worked in 2nd century England. I suppose a 1900 year old concept, that failed, is considered a perfectly logical solution to border security in this administration. I understand this ineffective low tech approach is the latest red meat for the uninformed, but the rest of us should see it for what it is...another way to fatten the purses of contractors with taxpayer dollars. Instead, why don't we use all this biometric technology, which we already have, to identify miscreants and deal with them in accordance with the law? Or are we to busy using these resources to listen to phone calls and monitor some 16 year olds IP address?
White punks on dope
So...what a surprise here...the current administration has complicated a solvable issue. Immigration has been a positive in this country since its inception. Sure, it needs to be regulated, but the laws are already there. Returning to a discrimanatory policy, vastly reducing quotas and failure to address the illegal immigrants already in the country is the problem here. The president prides himself on being a businessman, so who would he rather hire? The "native" who doesn't have the ambition to get off the couch and head to the 7-11 for a six pack and smokes, or the "immigrant" who left their country, family and friends and traveled 3000 miles to make an honest living?