“But what’s wrong with the decision to discontinue DACA is that people — not workers — will be deported. Lives — not careers — will be shattered. The problem is that it’s inhumane. As long as politicians consider it necessary to qualify the victims as “hardworking” or “talented,” they fail to stand up to the administration’s fundamentally hateful immigration agenda.
The reform package backed by Mr. Trump last month also claims to pursue economic aims. Neither Democrats nor Republicans — nor critics in the news media — have taken issue with this underlying premise: They have largely argued that the package proposes the wrong means for reaching economic ends. The plan would limit immigration to the young, highly educated and highly qualified. It would effectively stop immigrants from being able to bring family members to the United States. If an immigrant is but a cog in the economic machine, then what do parents, grown children and siblings matter? The logic is dehumanizing but hardly new or unique to the Republican Party. Mr. Sanders’s campaign plank argued for preserving family-based visas in the following terms: “Family is integral to a worker’s pursuit of happiness and economic productivity.”
Mr. Sanders’s platform made the barest mention of refugees. Mrs. Clinton’s published program made none. Mr. Trump, of course, wanted to drastically reduce the already small number of refugees that the United States accepts.
Refugees don’t fall into the economic logic of immigration. The argument for accepting refugees is not that they are good — for the economy, or for the country’s ability to meet its international obligations, or even because they are good people — but that America is good. This is where the sleight of hand of turning stories of immigrant success into the story of America becomes dangerous. It’s not immigrants’ economic contribution that makes America proud; it’s its adherence to the words inscribed inside the base of the Statue of Liberty: “Give me your tired, your poor/your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” — from the Emma Lazarus poem that the White House adviser Stephen Miller waved away last month during a news conference on immigration reform.
The controversy following Mr. Miller’s comments focused on the poem. But the argument for refugees is less poetic than it is pragmatic. As Arendt wrote in that essay, “the outlawing of the Jewish people in Europe has been followed closely by the outlawing of most European nations.” This was just a first step, Arendt wrote: “The comity of European peoples went to pieces when, and because, it allowed its weakest member to be excluded and persecuted.”
If immigration is debated only in terms of whether it benefits the economy, politicians begin to divide people into two categories: “valuable” and “illegal.” When countries make people illegal, the world comes apart. When we agree to talk about people as cogs, we lose our humanity.”
Read the complete op-ed at the link.
I generally agree with Gessen: we should save as many lives as possible, at least of folks who are not coming to harm us. We have approximately 11 million individuals living outside the law now; the results have been overwhelmingly a boon both for our country and the individuals. This suggests that we could and should have been admitting hundreds of thousands of additional legal immigrants annually. Yes, there probably is an outer limit. But, we’re nowhere near it, and haven’t seriously and realistically discussed it during my lifetime.
Leaving aside refugees and others in immediate danger, the market influences the flow to a much greater extent than most critics will admit. If there are no jobs and no opportunities, individuals who have a choice will stop coming or go elsewhere. Indeed, I noticed that during recession, some who were already here departed voluntarily, believing that with money they had made in the US, and dwindling opportunities here, they would be better off somewhere else. Moreover, by no means does everyone want to come to the US.
A normalized immigration system would allow us to do better screening of prospective immigrants. Also, if there were reasonable waiting lists for immigration, most individuals would choose to come within the system, rather than outside it. But, when legal immigration is an impossibility, or waiting lists stretch out for a decade for more, the incentive for legal immigration evaporates.
More legal immigration coming through a regularized system would also allow for better security screening, more effective border control, and a much more focused and efficient use of immigration enforcement resources. There would be a better chance that those coming outside the system would actually be “bad guys” whom we should remove, rather than construction workers, maids, gardeners, refugees of various types, and family members whose apprehension and removal does not serve the national interest.
We actually have a much more “robust”and expansive immigration system in reality than “on paper.” But, with our overly restrictive legal immigration laws, we have blown our chance to regulate and regularize the inevitable flow of migrants. More restrictions and more arbitrary enforcement in the false name of “rule of law” will not give us control. But, it will be expensive, dehumanizing, and ultimately against our real national interests.
Yes, immigration restrictionists don’t want to face up to the truth about migration. They will continue to push their false and alarmist narratives. But, at some point, the rest of us will do better to act on humane and realistic principles, rather than on fear and loathing.