A busload of desperate refugee children were being transferred this week from overcrowded facilities in South Texas to a location in California. They were greeted by a white mob blocking the road to the processing center. Morons chanting “impeach Obama” forced the buses to turn away.
Welcome to the arms of America.
Jeb Bush was right when he spoke about immigration reform this spring. It has probably ended his political career. Let’s review the sane, rational, measured comments that probably disqualified him for the Republican nomination:
“But the way I look at this — and I’m going to say this, and it’ll be on tape and so be it. The way I look at this is someone who comes to our country because they couldn’t come legally, they come to our country because their families — the dad who loved their children — was worried that their children didn’t have food on the table. And they wanted to make sure their family was intact, and they crossed the border because they had no other means to work to be able to provide for their family. Yes, they broke the law, but it’s not a felony. It’s an act of love. It’s an act of commitment to your family. I honestly think that that is a different kind of crime that there should be a price paid, but it shouldn’t rile people up that people are actually coming to this country to provide for their families.”
The racists who have hijacked our immigration policy like to claim that they embrace immigration so long as it done “legally” through the “proper channels.” This infuriating lie is the cousin of the deceptive rhetoric used in the gun control debate about “enforcing existing gun laws.”
Let’s remember a few details from the real world. For refugees, which is the status that many of these children will qualify for, this is the legal way. They are fleeing. Based on US and international law, they are being processed legally. When their status is determined, the law will determine how they are dealt with.
And for prospective immigrants to the US who are not refugees, there is no legal way. That’s the dumb reality behind the racist lies about immigration. That’s why so many people are working so hard to change the shape of our immigration laws in the face of resistance motivated by paranoia and deception.
There is no practical, workable way for people who do not have family in the US to immigrate here. Period. We have millions of illegal immigrants in the US because we have provided no realistic method to come here legally and no realistic means to punish those who exploit illegal migrants.
For almost a decade we have been tantalizingly close to ending this stupid, cruel, and utterly unnecessary standoff. Each time we get close, panicked mobs manage to shut the process down. Our first step, they say, has to be “securing the border.”
Unfortunately, “securing the border” in immigration rhetoric means “stopping brown people from coming here.” Have you tried to cross the border lately? We already have the most heavily militarized border of any free country on Earth not at war.
That’s why we can’t actually adopt sensible changes that would make our border crossings more orderly and stop the kind of senseless misery that our current legal limbo inspires. No law that would let people come here from Latin America legally will satisfy the racist fears of the mobs blocking those buses. They will pay any economic or moral price to protect what little remains of their cultural supremacy.
More sophisticated immigration reform opponents have cited the need to avoid attracting the “wrong kind” of immigrants. After all, those poor huddled masses don’t fund Internet startups. We want engineers and doctors.
That’s true, it’s legitimate, and that goal can be accomplished with a reasonable policy, but it’s also important to remember some things about those “less desirable” immigrants. That’s who we are. My ancestors didn’t come here because America craved their mad skills. With vanishingly few exceptions, neither did yours.
People with good jobs, solid skills, and lots of money living in stable successful countries very rarely become immigrants. Being a nation of immigrants means being a haven for people who are fleeing from crazy, screwed-up situations. It means welcoming people in desperate straits who have the grit, determination and relentless drive to make things better for their families. And guess what, a few dozen racist idiots are not going to stop people like that. We want people like that. We, as Americans, ARE people like that.
The folks standing in front of those buses are going to fail. That’s one of the more comforting realities about America. Whether next week or in a few years, America is going to adopt an immigration scheme that will embrace Latin American migrants and give them a path to citizenship. The economic and cultural incentives are too massive to ignore and the dangers are fantasy-based.
The political physics behind this are inevitable. All the remains to be seen is how long it will take and who will benefit. This 4th of July let’s celebrate the birthday of America, “The Mother of Exiles.”
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”