Immigration is one of the toughest political issues that faces our country. It is a point of strong contention among Republicans. It has created some unusual political bedfellows and alliances, such as that between Donald Trump, Ann Coulter, and Ted Cruz. It is an potential albatross to candidates like Marco Rubio and others.
There are basically three strands of immigrants or immigrant concerns.
First, we are at war with Islamic Jihadist Terrorism throughout the world. During the World War II era, the term Fifth Column arose. Its origins were as follows: During the Spanish Civil War, a Nationalist general named Emilio Mola had four columns of troops moving toward Madrid, but, in his words, he had a “fifth column” inside the city that would support him and undermine his opponents.
Fifth Column movements were used or feared throughout the war. In cases where there were secret Nazi supporters inside America, there were limited amounts of damage they could do. Inside Britain, Fifth Column activities were more threatening. The Allies strongly depended upon such movements working on our side, especially in regard to the French Underground.
Modern Islamic Terrorism is almost totally a Fifth Column movement. Geographical boundaries, recognizable uniforms, and national leaders, which characterize previous enemies, aren’t common in this war.
With legal immigrants, illegal immigrants, and international travelers coming into the United States through innumerable ports of entry, this is a concern. The 9-11 attackers were all here on American soil long before they attacked us. Obviously, the U.S. has to be aggressive and has to be successful at preventing “enemies” from entering the country. No one entering the country identifies himself or herself as a terrorist, although some have posted status updates on Facebook regarding their intentions.
The United States has no choice other than going the extra mile to keep such immigrants out. There are refugees who need asylum and aid. Whatever can be done and should be done must be done somewhere other than on American soil.
Second, there are criminals who come into the country. If I were a criminal, I would prefer a rich country with a system of laws to a poor country with nasty prisons. By that, I mean that I would rather be serving time in an American prison than stealing from peasants in a backward country. Along with the best and brightest of people who flee or seek a new life in America are the criminal minds who see boundless opportunities.
Obviously, these immigrants, whether legal or illegal, need to be dealt with harshly. I will let the experts determine what is best. Like it or not, we are not going to re-institute public hangings (and I am glad).
Third, many people come to the United States–legally and illegally–because of the rich possibilities found in this country. The garage sales and junk stores in America are a veritable Sachs Fifth Avenue to people who come from desperate poverty. Minimum wages or even sub-minimum wages are high dollars to many who come here. Along with the poor are the more affluent and better educated who come here because of the educational, cultural, and economic opportunities.
For example, Asian Indian doctors make up a large part of the American medical services. Accents aside, I have been blessed many times by foreign doctors who have helped me or my family. A large number of Indian families have found lucrative jobs and opportunities in the motel and hotel business. Some years back, it seemed like (and I am basing this on personal and limited travels) Indians were buying the older middle-of-the road motels. Their decorating tastes were awful, but they were successful at maintaining these businesses. As the years go by, I seen more Indians running and even building higher end motels and hotels.
Another example, in this part of the country, Mexicans make up a large portion of the roofers. Any time you hear the tapping of roofing hammers, you will see a large number of Mexicans on the roofs of houses. One roofer explained this to me by noting that a roofing job needs lots of workers who can get the task finished in short order. As soon as one group of workers clear the old shingles off the roof, another group begins putting on the new shingles. It is hot, heavy, hard work. (I tried it a few times and simply can’t do it.)
Most of the people who come here for the opportunities have never studied the founding documents of our country nor our history. Most don’t hold to our (or my) religious beliefs; few are bona fide free market capitalists; almost none subscribe to National Review; and American politics is more of a puzzle to them than to the rest of us.
But they are attracted to America, have relatives in America, and have hopes of a better life in America. And there are lots of them. And there are lots of ways they can get in. And our southern border is porous. And our northern border is long. And our coastlines are vast.
These are the three strands of the immigration problem. Now for some history.
American History and Immigration
America has always had immigration problems. John Smith had to roughly deal with some troublesome immigrants in Jamestown. Added to that is the fact that when he himself arrived, he was under lock and chain. That was in 1607. When the beloved Pilgrims arrived in Plymouth Rock in 1620, they had to create some guidelines lest the God-fearers aboard the Mayflower were to be outvoted by the majority non-Christian or at least non-Separatist travelers. The result was the Mayflower Compact.
I am sure that Native Americans would find both groups referenced above as the original troublesome and illegal aliens.
There were always waves of people coming to America that were opposed by other groups here. There were always groups that were coming here because of labor needs who were not welcomed with equal opportunities and pathways to citizenship. Here we think of both indentured servants and Africans.
All of the following groups were considered troublesome, irritating, unwelcome, or out of sync with the goals of the emerging nation: Quakers, Scots and Scots-Irish, Catholics, Baptists, Irish, Italians, Poles, Jews, and cannibals (see Moby Dick, the early chapters).
During a major phase of our history, the Irish were a major plague to those who were here. “Irish need not apply” was often written below “Help Wanted” ads. In time, southern and eastern Europeans, which also Russians and other ethnic groups living inside the boundaries of Tsarist Russia, were coming over in droves.
In the 1800s, Nativism arose as a political movement. It opposed the immigrants from southern and eastern Europe. In the 1920s, the renewed Ku Klux Klan found a following that extended throughout the mid-western states and other parts of the country, besides the south. The Klan always focused on suppressing blacks, but they were also–in the early 20th century–against Catholics and Jews, most of whom were fairly recent immigrants.
In the late 1800s and on until at least the first quarter of the twentieth century, the “Yellow Peril” was a major concern. This term refered to Chinese and Japanese and other Asian peoples. For a time, Chinamen were welcomed as workers, and they are remembered for their work on the Transcontinental Railroad. Coming to the west coast, the Yellow Races were labeled a peril. Everything bad, cruel, demeaning, and false that has been said about other ethnic groups were said of Asians. This opposition can be seen as existing up to the time that people of Japanese heritage were locked away in detainment camps during World War II.
These are a few examples of the recurring fears and phobias regarding “furineers.”
Blights on Our History
So what do we do now? I don’t pretend to have any or all answers to the immigration crisis, but I can say for certain what cannot be done and will not be done by any candidate or any party. America will not and cannot deport millions of people. Any political party who was party to such an action would be destroyed. No President could survive taking such an action.
Four Ugly Examples:
- The Trail of Tears. President Andrew Jackson thought he was doing the right thing in the forcible removal of Cherokee people from the Georgia/Carolina regions to Oklahoma. If the events had entailed a safe moving of the people, it would have been bad enough. But the suffering, death, and damage done to the Cherokees was and still is a terrible blot on our nation’s history.
2. The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. This was a part of the Great Compromise of 1850, which only delayed and did not prevent the War Between the States. Southerners foolishly pushed for this law which entailed the capture and return of slaves who had escaped to free states. It did not help the south. Why were slaves escaping if the system was not deeply flawed? Northern communities, rather than enforcing this law, sided with escaped slaves.
3. The Removal of the Bonus Army of 1932. This was another sad event in our history. As the effects of the Great Depression deepened, many veterans and others gathered in Washington, D.C. to try to collect pay bonuses they thought were due them. On the part of the Bonus Army, there were misguided veterans, some rabble rousers, and women and children. President Herbert Hoover, overall a good man, foolishly sent the army in, under the command of General Douglas MacArthur, to remove the Bonus Army. There were deaths and injuries done to Americans by Americans.
4. The Japanese Internment in World War II. Since Japan attacked the United States at Pearl Harbor, serious efforts were made to protect this country. Americans of Japanese descent were herded into internment camps. Neither Germans nor Italians were interned although we were at war with those countries also. As it happened, there were Japanese-Americans who were allowed to serve in our military and who proved their worth and commitment to the country.
No doubt there are other examples of errors, bad judgments, sins, and evils afflicted on people in our country’s history. In most cases, people who made the decisions did so on the basis of real convictions about how to solve a problem. (I don’t believe that Andrew Jackson, the U. S. Congress in 1850, Herbert Hoover, or Franklin Roosevelt were purposely doing evil.)
Here is a difference today: We have media and lots of it. The world has media and lots of it. There are millions of people who came here illegally who are now working class folks. (Yes, they are enjoying the government supplied freebies. That is a separate problem.) Many don’t know English, the Declaration of Independence, or the major thesis of Hayek’s Road to Serfdom. Many are women and children. Many have no strong church or theological foundations.
NO PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES IS GOING TO PROMOTE A MULTI-MILLION PERSON REMOVAL OF MEN, WOMEN, AND CHILDREN.
NO POLITICAL PARTY CAN AFFORD TO BE THE PARTY BEHIND SUCH AN ACTION.
I think we need to “do the next right thing.” Evangelism and education are high priorities. So is a pathway to citizenship. Many of us descended from “illegal aliens.” After all, what Indian council approved our coming here!)