The Border Hot Potato

Women and Children, many unaccompanied, are streaming across the south west US boarder. It is reported they are fleeing violence and economic hardship. For many politicians, this situation is a gift from heaven.

For these politicians, there is reason to demand increased boarder security and the golden opportunity to spread fear amongst voters.

In earlier times, immigrants were more welcome. The Statue of Liberty comes with a poem containing these lines,

“Give me your tired, your poor,
 Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, 
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore…”

What has happened to change public opinion so greatly that what in the past were viewed as potential resources and are now viewed only as a liability?

Of course there have been other times in American history when immigrants were felt unwanted and at times feared. But the overwhelming American experience has been that immigrants helped propel America into global leadership and wealth.

To be sure this current crop of Salvadorian, Guatemalan, and Honduran have no right to self immigrate. There was no US invitation nor are there pre-arranged jobs waiting them. So how does the richest country in the world deal with such a situation?

House Speaker John Boehner said the President should enforce the law. Hmmm. I wonder what law he means?

Currently law requires women and children be released pending an immigration hearing. What?

A law from George W Bush era, ratified unanimously by the Senate, restricts the immediate deportation because of fear that “human traffic-ing” might be involved. But if your goal is to curry favor with xenophobes who in turn might vote for your party, then Boehner’s comments might make sense.

In the recent past, newspaper headlines have been all about Mexican undocumented workers. Congress has failed to deal with this issue and now with women and children entering the country Congress is facing a much more nuanced threat.

Republicans who have consistently tried to deal with undocumented aliens “tactically” have been punished in opinion polls and in the last Presidential election. US demographics shout to Republicans that they need a better “strategy”.  Hispanic US citizens have become a major voting influence.

Immigrants and immigration are now and always has been a mixed bag of opportunity and challenges. Immigrants displace current workers and those displaced workers need to find work someplace else. If these displaced workers find as good or better employment, then all is forgiven. If not, then immigrants are bad.

Immigrants from Central America (including Mexico) arguably represent a special situation. These immigrants are our neighbors and if one thinks about it for a moment, carry with them a number of cherished American values. These would-be immigrants are religious, hard working, and strong family people. In short, they are like most of us.

Of course there is a limiting immigration rate which our economy could support. It is also important that these immigrants show their willingness to assimilate (language, allegiance to the country). I suspect the Mexican undocumented workers have already shown this. Otherwise how could an estimated 11 million be living already in the US?

The immigration issue is a hot potato for both parties. Regrettably, both parties’ willingness to use “tactics” on this issue has had the consequence of failure to form any national consensus. So far Democrats seem to have won the Hispanic vote with their “tactics”.

Unfortunately the undocumented worker problem is not going away, sealing the boarders is inadequate (if not impossible), and ultimately the US needs immigrants to supplement our natural birthrate.

The only question should be is who will be the immigrants?

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