Immigration: Is a rational and humane compromise possible?
“It’s all a hoax, a great big hoax,” said Catherine Rampell in The Washington Post. Not the family separations at the border, or traumatized toddlers being detained like criminals in cages. “Those cruelties are all too real.” What’s fake is President Trump’s claim that the country is being “infested” with hordes of criminal “invaders” pouring like vermin over an open southern border. In reality, the number of people apprehended at the border has been steadily sinking for years, and fell to about 300,000 last year—the lowest level since 1971. Trump and other border hawks, however, believe that “even one border-crosser is too many, since most come bringing crime, drugs, and general bloodthirst.” This is also a lie. Studies show that both legal and undocumented immigrants commit crimes at much lower rates than native-born Americans. Immigrants aren’t “stealing” American jobs, either. With the unemployment rate at 3.8 percent, many employers are complaining about a shortage of workers. Nevertheless, Trump insists that the situation is so dire, extreme measures have become necessary. “Sadly, Trump’s manufactured crisis has now led to very real tragedy.”
“It is disgusting and wrong to equate human beings with insects and animals, as Trump so disgracefully does,” said David Frum in TheAtlantic.com. But it’s also wrong to say that we don’t have an immigration crisis. Nearly 300,000 Central Americans have claimed asylum status in the U.S., Mexico, and elsewhere, many of them fleeing runaway gang violence. Every month, thousands are showing up with children at the border, overwhelming officials’ ability to respond. We can have sympathy for their plight, but we can’t simply throw the doors open to anyone who arrives. Without borders, “there are no nations.” The president’s “zero-tolerance” policy may have been “a fiasco,” said Rich Lowry in the New York Post, but Democrats are just as extreme, demanding “a perpetual rolling amnesty.” Liberals are now condemning the very idea of detaining anyone who crosses the border illegally. Instead, they want to go back to “catch-and-release,” in which migrants are released into the country pending a court date, many of whom never return. For the Left, “the true enemy is enforcement” of any immigration laws.
There are ways to enforce immigration laws effectively and humanely, said Alexia Fernández Campbell in Vox.com. “The problem is that the Trump administration isn’t interested.” One Obama-era program paired asylum seekers with social workers who made sure they attended their court hearings. But the Trump administration killed the program, even though 99 percent of participants showed up for their hearings—including those who were deported.
Sadly, rational responses to the immigration problem are not possible, said David Brooks in The New York Times. Serious immigration reform will involve compromises and trade-offs, including what to do about the millions of people already living in the U.S. illegally. But the minority of border hawks who control the Republican Party keep blocking any politically workable compromise while shouting “amnesty.” We all know why the hard-liners are so panicked, said Charles M. Blow, also in The New York Times. America is well on the way to becoming a majority-minority country. Among kids under 10, there are now more children of color than children who are white. Strip away all the rationales for restricting immigration and you get “white extinction anxiety.” Trump “is beloved by his base in part because he is unapologetically defending whiteness from anything that threatens it.”
Democrats dismiss this anxiety at their own peril, said Andrew Sullivan in NYMag.com. Like it or not, a large number of white Americans “feel like strangers in their own land.” It’s undeniable that a new wave of migrants is coming from Central America, overwhelming a system already bogged down with an existing backlog of more than 300,000 asylum cases. Trump was elected on the pledge that he would halt illegal immigration, “with a wall at the southern border as the centerpiece.” So give him his wall. In return, Democrats should insist on a full path to citizenship for all DACA immigrants, and other humane reforms that will keep tent cities of detained migrants from rising on the southern border. The wall may never be completed, and it may not even work, but approving it may be “the only way to reassure a critical mass of Americans that mass immigration is under control.” Until that happens, “we will get nowhere.” ■