The issue of immigration was arguably one of the biggest issues of the 2016 presidential election campaigns. It was also incredibly emotionally charged, and many arguments were made and labels applied that really only obfuscated the facts. Such titles as pro-immigration, pro-refugee, and anti-immigration and anti-refugee have gendered much confusion. When we consider the factors involved in this issue — illegal immigration from the southern border, the inefficiency of the legal immigration system, the refugee crisis, and the societal, political, and economic implications of these things — it can seem overwhelming!
So, what’s the answer? How do we handle immigration?
Let’s start with a brief history of American immigration.
It’s important to note that our nation, as a people, is rooted in immigration. From the first European explorers, to the pilgrims, to the Irish immigrants of the 1840’s, to the immigrants of Ellis Island, to the modern immigrants from Mexico, the Middle East, and every corner of the world, America has been both birthed by immigration and fueled by the assimilation and productivity of many immigrants.
The European explorers came seeking adventure and wealth.
The pilgrims came seeking religious liberty.
The Irish came seeking economic opportunity and fertile soil to escape their native famine.
The immigrants of Ellis Island came seeking liberty, wealth, and a better life.
Mexican immigrants often come seeking work and a future for their children.
Many middle-eastern immigrants come seeking relief from cruel despotism.
Each one of these groups found what they were looking for: a national soil teeming with liberty and opportunity. Most of these immigrants loved what they found and gladly assimilated, adopting America’s democratic-republican ideals and moral, freedom-loving culture. America has been the vertex at which all members of every people have become one under the glorious banner of liberty and Christian heritage.
So, it is important to first note immigration’s vitality to the American story and spirit. Indeed, eight of the Framers of the Constitution — Pierce Butler, Thomas Fitzsimons, James McHenry, William Paterson, William Davie, Robert Morris, James Wilson, and Alexander Hamilton were born in foreign lands. The simple fact of the matter is that America would not be America without immigration; therefore, it is in the best interest of any patriot to embrace the concept of immigration.
At this point, we reach the great debate. How can conservatives embrace immigration while advocating stringent immigration policies? In this article, I will deal only with the issue of immigration in the context of the southern border. Some have even gone so far as to decry various politicians as “anti-immigrant.” For example, the Washington Times stated,
“…given Trump’s harsh anti-immigrant rhetoric from the campaign trail, immigrant rights groups and Democratic lawmakers are still on alert.”
An article from New York Daily News discussing Trump’s executive orders regarding the border wall and middle eastern immigrants is titled, “Trump expected to sign anti-immigration executive orders,” and an article from Right Wing Watch criticized Senators Jeff Sessions and Ted Cruz and Rep. Steve King as being “anti-immigration.” These are just a few examples of the left’s labeling. Do an Internet search for “anti discrimination politicians” or “is Trump anti-immigration,” and you will find many more articles blasting these and other politicians for being anti-immigration.
This is how many republican politicians are characterized: xenophobic radicals who simply want to keep America white. May I submit that this is a schismatic tactic designed to emotionalize the issue and paint conservative politicians as haters.
“The issue of immigration is front and center in the 2016 presidential election. Republican Donald Trump launched his campaign by bashing Mexican immigrants, calling them ‘rapists,’ ‘killers’ and drug dealers” –Right Wing Watch”
Do these sentiments represent reality? I am no defender of Trump, and, as mentioned above, I believe immigration to be a very important component of the American spirit, but I do believe that we would do well to take a closer look at the issue.
Trump was not calling Mexican immigrants “rapists,” “killers,” and “drug dealers”; he called illegal immigrants those things. For example, during the third presidential debate, Trump said that one of his first efforts toward securing the border would be to get out the “bad hombres,” and he has repeatedly spoken of drug dealers and criminal illegal immigrants as the problem. It is the 11.4 million illegal immigrants, and, particularly, those that maintain criminal activity, that President Trump was referencing. Indeed, his executive order, “Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements,” pertained only to punishing illegal immigrants and building a wall to prevent more illegals from gaining entrance to our country. Thus, we could say that President Trump and those who support his ideas of border and immigration security are anti-illegal immigration, not anti-immigration, and it is simply hyperbolical to label those who oppose amnesty and completely open borders “anti-immigrant.”
So, what should we make of all this? On the one hand, liberals such as Hillary Clinton advocate paths to citizenship for all immigrants, including those that came to the U.S. illegally; on the other hand, President Trump has ordered the building of a wall for which conservatives have advocated for years that will prevent many illegals from entering the U.S. How should immigration happen?
In the first place, we need to come to grips with an unpleasant reality: those 11.4 million people who are currently making their abode in our nation illegally cannot be law-abiding citizens; they entered unlawfully, and are perpetuating their crime by not seeking citizenship. This is not to say that all illegals are drug dealing, shady characters; however, anyone desiring a better future in the land of the free must start by obeying our immigration laws. We need to stop the influx of illegal immigrants and support and strengthen our border patrol in their mission of enforcing our immigration laws. If we do not uphold the legal immigration process, and allow anyone to become a citizen, regardless of how they came to the U.S., we have essentially abrogated our laws.
At this point, a very emotional question comes up. Liberals are quick to ask, “What about those illegal immigrants that have had children here and are working and leading productive lives?” We certainly do not want to tear families apart. We need to realize that the root issue is a pervading lackadaisical attitude toward illegal immigration. This attitude has encouraged many foreigners to both ignore our laws when crossing our borders and be free of prompt punishment for doing so. Once we have our immigration problems under control, we could work to negotiate a path to citizenship for those who meet very strict criteria, deporting only those who have a criminal record; but, for now, we need to worry about preventing the perpetuation of our problems by stopping illegal immigration.
Second, we need to remember that it is unjust to strengthen our border security while failing to improve the legal admission process. On this note, I believe the President is right: while building a wall and supporting our border patrol should be the first priority, we must make it easier for immigrants to become citizens. As of November 1, 2016, 4,259,573 people were awaiting immigrant visas, most of whom simply want to become American citizens, lead a productive, happy life, and provide, by God’s grace, a future of opportunity for their children.
In other words, we need to promote legal immigration and assimilation while absolutely ending illegal immigration. This will result in the creation of more American citizens who adopt our values and work to improve our lives and economy.
I hope you’ve found this article helpful and enjoyable! I’d love to get your thoughts. Please comment below!
Immigrant Founding Fathers:
“Data on the Framers of the Constitution”:
Washington Times — “Trump’s harsh anti-immigrant rhetoric”:
“Trump expected to sign anti-immigration executive orders”:
Right Wing Watch article:
Trump “We have some bad hombres”:
“Executive Order: Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements”:
Number of those waiting for immigrant visas:
Hillary Clinton’s campaign position on immigration: