George Boardman: Trump’s approach on illegal immigration won’t solve the problem
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Incoherent is the only word that comes to mind when you try to make sense of President Donald Trump’s illegal immigration policy, particularly since his purge of the Department of Homeland Security.
Frustrated by the courts and Congress, Trump decided DHS has not done its job to stop the surge of immigrants at our southern border. Out are the secretary of DHS, the director of the Secret Service, and his nominee to head Immigration and Customs Enforcement, all of them deemed too weak.
Politico reports the White House has floated the names of two immigration hardliners to replace ousted DHS secretary Kirstjen Neilsen, and that Republican leaders in the Senate have signaled their opposition to both. Meanwhile, Politico reports the senators are trying to ensure that DHS counsel John Mitnich retains his job so DHS will follow the law!
The purge of DHS is just another example of the divisive approach Trump has taken to an important national problem. Instead of trying to reach a consensus, Trump has chosen to splinter Americans on the issue by labeling all illegal immigrants as criminals that threaten the security of the most powerful nation on earth.
Trump also appears to be siding with racist-driven hardliners who want to shut off all immigration, especially from Third World countries. None of these people seem to have an answer for where we’re going to get the young workers needed to fuel a vibrant economy in a country with an aging population.
Neither side in the current debate can claim the moral high ground. Mexico has traditionally liked the idea of poorly patrolled American borders because they are a safety valve for the social pressures created by the country’s corrupt and/or incompetent rulers over the last 90 years. A Mexican from Acapulco who can’t feed his family is less of a threat to the ruling class if he’s grumbling about it in Los Angeles, and the billions in remittances sent home every year lessen the pressure to create a more equitable society.
Mexico’s policy is aided on this side of the border by vocal groups that apparently believe that anybody who can evade the border patrol wins a game, and that the prize is the rights and privileges afforded people who are here legally. When the U.S. Border Patrol periodically got serious about doing its job in the past, the policy was labeled “militarization” of the U.S.-Mexican border.
There are even periodic attempts to extend the constitutional rights of American citizens to illegals whose only right is a safe trip to the nearest border crossing. Amazingly, the advocates for illegal immigrants have been able to persuade (“cower” might be a better word) many of our elected officials into accepting these notions, or at least pretend the problem doesn’t exist.
The attitude of these advocates is tied to the mythology about America being a haven for “your tired, your poor, your huddled masses …” The reality is that our immigration policy has always been based on more pragmatic considerations that were tinged by racist attitudes.
We initially encouraged immigration because the U.S. had a vast continent to populate and we wanted to fill it up with Europeans. As we evolved from an agricultural to an industrial nation, more people were needed to work in the factories and mines, and keep the labor unions weak. (It’s no coincidence that the industrial nation with the most liberal immigration policy is also the one with the weakest union movement.)
But illegal immigration was never much of a problem in the U.S. until after World War II, when the end of colonial rule didn’t deliver the promised benefits to Third World nations and the U.S. became the economic powerhouse of the world. Now, we seem to have become even more of a magnet for people seeking a better life.
Estimates of the illegal immigrant population in the U.S. range from 12 million to more than 30 million; the low number is still more than twice the estimated illegal population 20 years ago. Estimates of the net cost to taxpayers also vary widely — from $116 billion a year to over $330 billion — to educate their children, provide health and welfare benefits, and pay for government operations that keep them out of the country. That’s a high price to pay to fill agricultural and other low-paying jobs.
The situation doesn’t figure to get better anytime soon. As Third World populations continue to increase and economic disparity continues to grow between the northern and southern hemispheres, pressure will continue to grow in the U.S. and western Europe to take in more economic and political refugees.
Mexico isn’t the only source of illegal immigrants (and all of the illegals coming from the south aren’t Mexicans), but it is the most visible source of the problem. If we aren’t going to get serious about stopping illegal immigrants at the Mexican border, we might as well get rid of all of our immigration laws.
This issue has nothing to do with racism (we already have the most diverse population in the world), or perpetuating our Eurocentric traditions (as if that’s bad), or any of the other guilt trips apologists for illegal immigrants like to lay on the rest of us. It is about retaining the core values of America and controlling our own destiny.
But we have a president who created the current crisis in an effort to draw support from blue collar workers who feel they’ve been left behind, who views compromise as a sign of weakness, and who doesn’t like to be told he can’t act on his darker impulses.
This is not the kind of leadership that will come up with a workable solution to an important problem.
George Boardman lives at Lake of the Pines. His column is published Mondays by The Union. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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