In the presidential election of 2016, the question of how to reform our immigration system was at the forefront of the issues, so it is little surprise that it didn’t take very long for it to rear its head once the new president was sworn into office. First, President Trump issued his (currently in limbo) executive order limiting immigration from seven majority-Muslim countries, and now the recent actions of ICE regarding illegal immigrants have drawn the expected responses from the two main political factions. The former question is an important one, but herein we will concern ourselves only with the latter issue.
The fact is that a majority of Americans favor a “pathway to citizenship” where immigrants from countries not seen as a potential terrorist threat (see: Mexico) are concerned. The country as a whole may tolerate (or even favor) the rounding up of illegals with criminal records rife with felonies, but in all likelihood, a large-scale campaign of armed federal officials tromping around peaceful Hispanic communities rounding up Abuela will not sit well with American citizens. This being the case, there are a few ways Americans whose beliefs fall somewhere between the two extremes may be able to come together on the question of what to do about immigration, at least in a very broad sense.
We can start by being honest. Immigration is an emotionally charged issue. But it does no good to insist that the only reason anyone would oppose immigration is racism, or that anyone who favors a higher level of immigration than you do is a “globalist” or wants “white genocide.” Most Trump voters don’t want to round up every Mexican day laborer, and most Hillary voters aren’t for just abandoning the border and letting Mexico invade. There are those people on both sides of the issue, surely, but they don’t make up a majority of the voting public. They just happen to make a lot of noise. Assuming these things about each other makes it impossible to actually come to a consensus. It’s also important to recognize that the United States does, in fact, have the same right as every other country on earth to limit immigration in any way she sees fit, and we have always done so. The idea that limiting immigration levels from this country or that is “un-American” is historically illiterate. Borders exist. Nations are sovereign. Immigration can be limited. Illegal aliens can be deported.
It is of the utmost importance to make fixing the legal immigration system a priority. Unfortunately, it is run by the federal government, so it’s a terrible mess. The horror stories of the bureaucratic nightmare that is our immigration system are well known to anyone who has spent any time working with/employing people with visas or green cards, or with people who couldn’t get one. This is where the “but the illegals are breaking the law” argument breaks down for a lot of us: dealing with any federal bureaucracy is next to impossible even for citizens. It is also imperative that all pressure that can be brought to bear on the government of Mexico to get their own house in order be applied. The cartels do exist, and they do commit crimes on American soil. This is not only a violation of our national sovereignty but makes Donald Trump’s claims about Mexican criminal elements resonate with a lot of people. That the vast majority of Mexicans crossing the border are doing so for perfectly honest reasons is lost in the noise. The Mexican government must take more responsibility for ending this problem.
There is also an important point which needs to be made that has fallen out of favor recently: the need for assimilation. In the America of the last two decades or so it has become increasingly en vogue for people to “celebrate” their culture and heritage. Most of the time what this seems to mean is celebrating it over traditional American culture (think Mexican flags at pro-immigration rallies). The hard truth that needs to be faced, especially by the left, is this: the majority of Americans are perfectly willing to accept an immigrant from anywhere if that person’s objective is to become an American. This does not mean people need to lose their customs from the old country (plenty of Italian and German immigrant families who have been American for a century retain many of theirs). What it does mean is that Americans expect people to immigrate here because they love this country and what it represents and they want to be a part of it, not that they seek mere financial opportunities. The slogan “Make America Great Again” should actually be, at least when applied to immigration, “here’s why America is great and if you want to come here because you believe in it and want to be an American, well we get that, and we’ll work with you, because we love Her, too.” It should be clear that as a nation we do not expect immigrants to abandon their culture, but we do expect them to become an American in their hearts, not just on paper. As Teddy Roosevelt put it: “There can be no divided allegiance here. Any man who says he is an American, but something else also, isn’t an American at all...we have room for but one sole loyalty and that is a loyalty to the American people.” That this idea is controversial to so many is why there is so much support for a crackdown on immigration and building a border wall.
None of these ideas is revelatory. They may even be, for the most part, mainstream. That they are so difficult to enact is probably a function of the squeakiest wheels always getting the grease, and until the people between the two political extremes recognize that most Americans are amenable to something like them, the squeaky wheels will continue getting greased, right up until we all slip off the cliff.
Just a gaggle of people from all over who have similar interests and loud opinions mixed with a dose of humor. We met on Twitter.