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Immigrants in Search of America

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By Walter Donway

January 31, 2018

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When left-liberals find a cause important enough to warrant closing down government, as have U.S. Democrats led by N.Y. Sen. Charles Schumer, you may be certain that that cause is 1) emotion-laden, 2) pivotal to their election strategy, and 3) probably rooted in the philosophy of postmodernism.

Do not sacrifice America’s principles to accommodate illegal entrants. It is America’s principles that they seek.

When left-liberals find a cause important enough to warrant closing down government, as have U.S. Democrats led by N.Y. Sen. Charles Schumer, you may be certain that that cause is 1) emotion-laden, 2) pivotal to their election strategy, and 3) probably rooted in the philosophy of postmodernism.

The cause, this time, is protection from deportation of millions of entrants who crossed our southern border illegally—in particular, the offspring of illegal entrants. Elected on a pledge to stem and reverse illegal entry from Mexico and Central America, President Donald Trump has defied the liberal-left’s core electoral strategy and its deepest philosophical view of politics and society as oppressed versus oppressors.

They have taken their stand on a tradition rooted in the American psyche. We are a nation of immigrants, except possibly the homo sapiens who traipsed across the Bering Strait on an ice bridge and populated South and North America.

My family on both sides arrived on the flood tide of immigration around the end of the Nineteenth Century, probably entering through Ellis Island or the port of Boston. My father’s father was fleeing the draft in the part of Poland then controlled by the Prussia; my mother’s father most likely was fleeing famine in County Tyrone, Ireland.

Can I, or any American, be unmoved by our newer immigrants, driven by the same fears, drawn by the same hopes, sustained by the same courage as those whose choices made us Americans? And the implication most relevant in the present controversy is that sentiment, emotionalism, and appeals to empathy have made the debate personal, bitter, tending to self-righteousness, and urgently in need of objectivity.

Do those voices shouting and quavering in Congress and roaring in the streets express the premise of open-hearted welcome for any and every potential entrant, from anywhere, under any circumstances, in any numbers? The more the merrier, pour over our borders, welcome, we accept and will care for all?

That often appears to be implicit in the position of the Democratic political strategists. Today, people do not enter America from all over the world; no, those were and are individuals choosing legal entry into our country. Overwhelmingly, our new entrants are those who can sneak across our southern border without benefit of documents. That system greatly favors (selects for) those whose first act as a new U.S. resident is to ignore the law.

Is it un-American to uphold the law even if millions of immigrants—not from “the world,” but only south of the border—have violated it?

We hear the unanswerable assertion that for the most part these are good people, needy, human like us. But, if ours is a “government of laws, not men,” then we uphold the law even when “good men” violate it. Even when the law “rips apart families.” When a man commits armed robbery and is tried and convicted, he goes to prison—perhaps leaving behind for years a wife and young children. A choice to violate the law often affects not only our generation but those to come.

Is it un-American to uphold the law even if millions of immigrants—not from “the world,” but only south of the border—have violated it? Even if the Obama Administration by executive order temporarily suspended upholding the law? The laws against illegal entry are well known everywhere, to everyone; that is why they sneak across the border. The law is well known to those who have tried repeatedly to evade it.

Ilya Somin, writing in the Washington Post (September 4, 2017, “The Case for keeping DACA”), scoffed at the argument that DACA must not violate the rule of law:

…the federal government already chooses not to enforce its laws against the vast majority of those who violate them. Current federal criminal law is so expansive that the majority of Americans are probably federal criminals….

Thanks for the wake-up call. I think he is right. The interventionist state has so many laws and regulations on the books that any citizen our government wanted to round-up could be arrested on some charge. The writer confronts us with the implication: If there are so many laws on the books that are not enforced, then no laws should be enforced. Why pick on illegal entrants? The answer of course is to repeal or strike down laws deemed unenforceable or not important to enforce. But until such time, enforce them. Take the rule of law seriously. Laws that are strictly enforced will build pressure for repeal if they do not have public support.

When the wave of illegal entrants comprise mostly the poor, the economically desperate, then the political beneficiary in the United States is the party identified with an ever-expanding welfare state, the most benefits for the most people at every level of government. The entrants from south of the border are new voters for the Democrats, the party of the identified with the aggressively growing welfare state. USA Today (September 2, 2015) reported a study by the Center for Immigration Studies that:

About 51% of immigrant-led households receive at least one kind of welfare benefit, including Medicaid, food stamps, school lunches and housing assistance, compared to 30% for native-led households…

Those numbers increase for households with children, with 76% of immigrant-led households receiving welfare, compared to 52% for the native-born.

Federal welfare programs often disqualify illegal entrants, so that the burden of the welfare benefits described above falls upon states, counties, and cities. There is a reason that California is an automatic, no-contest, shoe-in for the Democrats in every election. And the goal of the party is to make that a nationwide phenomenon to usher in a century of unbroken Democratic party hegemony. The goal of Republicans is not to let that happen.

Can reason claim its turn in the current inflamed debate? Perhaps we can agree that government is delegated by the governed to protect the individual’s right to life, liberty, and property. A nation is a geographical area and population under a sovereign government (i.e., California is not a nation—yet). Toward its own citizens, the moral obligation of government is to protect individual rights.

What is the appropriate role of government, then, looking outward on the world? It is to assert and defend the national interest, to represent the common, shared interests of the body of its citizens. Its appropriate role, I would suggest, does not include protecting the individual rights of all individuals everywhere. It is not the policeman of the planet.

Having said that, the national interest of the government of a free country must compass respect for the rights of all individuals because the sanctity of the principle of human rights is vital to its own citizens.

Acting in the national interest, the United States should regulate entry into the country in the interest of its citizens. By that standard, it will set terms for visitors, residents, and citizens. Great nations, ever and always, have been liberal in admission of new residents, confident that the nation’s culture and values will win over the new arrivals. America in every era has benefited enormously from its new immigrants. I like to think it benefited from stamping the papers of my Polish and Irish ancestors. I am sure it benefited from stamping those of your ancestors.

But … that earlier immigration, under laws for that time, proved beneficial, does not imply that America today needs no policy that asserts the national interest. It does not imply that any number of immigrants, entering legally or illegally, from anywhere, is automatically in our national interest.

If the People’s Republic of China, as it likes to call itself, decided that its population growth was intolerable, and offered any Chinese free passage to America, with a subsidy for the immigrant’s first year in America, America would not have to admit 100 million new Chinese immigrants in 2019 in order to be “true” to its values and tradition. No, America has a right and obligation to ascertain its national interest and uphold it.

The grandstanding in Washington is about political advantage sought by the Democratic leadership, who would dole out the largesse of the welfare state to desperate families surging over our borders. They set no standard in law or national interest for immigration because, for now, all immigration increases their electoral edge. They deny and disparage the law.

The grandstanding in Washington is about political advantage sought by the Democratic leadership, who would dole out the largesse of the welfare state to desperate families surging over our borders. They set no standard in law or national interest for immigration because, for now, all immigration increases their electoral edge. They deny and disparage the law. They claim our national interest is not in upholding the rule of law but in an ill-defined, emotionalist “humanism” that fails to ask: What are the principles that have made America the destination of people from politically, economically, legally, and socially-failed nations?

The core such principle is the rule of law, law applied without regard for factional interest, without privilege or consideration of status, that has made America the beacon for refugees. America cannot keep faith with them, or with her own citizens, by dissolving the rule of law in a cauldron of emotional appeals.

East Hampton on the east end of Long Island has been described as “the wealthiest resort in the Western hemisphere.” I live there, though my wealth adds nought to its glory. East Hampton’s population is 26 percent Hispanic. Mexicans and Latinos flock here to provide services in the retail outlets, gardens, farms, restaurants, and, yes, vineyards. A man from Ecuador has gone from cutting my grass and trimming my oak trees to being a dinner and holiday party guest.

It is embarrassing even to say that. It is just the way of America. Wilson, called Willie, is on the cutting edge of American energy, drive, and entrepreneurship. A couple of years ago, he was arrested in his home and transported to a New Jersey holding center for illegal immigrants awaiting a hearing and possible deportation. I and others wrote letters on his behalf and, at last, he came home. He has gone through the process, now, that he once circumvented. He is legal, with a clear path to citizenship. To paraphrase the apostle, Paul, he has “fought the good fight, run the course, kept faith.”

That is how much he wanted to be resident in a country that upholds the supremacy of the rule of law because that is the foundation of a government rooted in respect for human rights. And that, in turn, undergirds freedom of enterprise, sanctity of property, the right to acquire and enjoy wealth. That is the vision that has motivated and sustained Wilson for two decades.

America cannot keep faith with him by abandoning the rule of law and all that that implies. That is what Wilson left behind when he came in search of America.

 

See also: Must a Moral Nation have Limitless Immigration?

 

 

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  • Russ

    There is, of course, no literal “national interest.” Only individuals can have an “interest” in something.

    As for the rule of law: anti-immigration laws are unconstitutional. No delegated authority/enumerated powers beyond limiting the slave trade and setting the standards for naturalization are granted to Congress.

    Re: welfare for immigrants: one answer is to prohibit any non-citizen from getting government welfare of any kind. Of course, the statists and collectivists will never pass such a law since that would put the lie to their claim that government benefits are a “right.” If they aren’t a right for non-citizens, they are not a right for citizens, either.

    Freedom of association, freedom of contract, freedom of travel: these are rights (among many others, of course) that all humans possess as part of being humans.

    Too bad so many people focus on nonessentials and ignore the fundamental issues at stake. Indeed, one pair of “conservatives” boldly told me that non-citizens “have no rights.” Ponder that insanity a moment: if that obscenity were true, then I could murder/rape/rob any non-citizen. After all: they have “no rights.” More so, it would not be rape/murder/robbery since such terms apply only to beings who possess rights that are, ya know inalienable…