Beliefnet
At the Intersection of Faith and Culture

Among the huge issues with which our nation has to grapple, that of immigration is as huge as any of them.  Yet this has become an increasingly difficult task as fiction has eclipsed fact. So as to make some headway on this score, I seek here to sort out the myths from the truths.

Fiction #1: Immigration is a normative concept.  The assumption seems to be that all things being equal, immigration is a moral good, something that we ought to promote and that only a reprobate could reject.  It is this assumption that accounts for why “conservative” critics of amnesty invariably insist that they are all in favor of legal immigration.  And it is this assumption that underlies the oft-repeated slogan that America is “a nation of immigrants.”

Fact: Of course, the truth of the matter is that immigration is as morally-neutral a concept as are the concepts of bleeding and moving.  Bleeding and moving, taken by themselves, are neither morally good nor morally bad.  The same is the case with immigration.  It is circumstances, context, that invest these activities with moral worth.

Fiction #2: America is “a nation of immigrants.”

Fact: Those who created America were not “immigrants”; they were settlers.  There is as much of a difference between a settler of a land and those who emigrate to it as there is a difference between one who founds a company and those who invest in it once the founder takes his company public.

Just as, say, there was no Microsoft to invest in until after Bill Gates founded it, there was no America for anyone to emigrate to until after the English colonists settled it.

Fact: But let’s suppose that it is correct that America is a so-called nation of immigrants.  So what?  That America has always been a certain way in the past does not mean that it should continue upon that course in the future.  Unsurprisingly, in other contexts everyone seems to grasp this principle.

For example, no amnesty enthusiast would endorse the argument that we ought to insure that white Christians remain the dominant demographic group in America because America has always been “a nation of (mostly) white Christians.” And no one would contend that because America was originally a nation of lots of white slaveholders that we should see to it that it become so once again.

Fiction #3: Since most of us wouldn’t be in America if not for the fact that our ancestors came here, it is incumbent upon us to support immigration now.  This reasoning takes the form: “I am the product of immigration.  Therefore, I support immigration.”  People like talk radio and Fox News host Sean Hannity never tire of making this argument.

Fact: To see what a terrible argument it is, consider it in light of another: “I am the product of a one night sexual encounter between two intoxicated strangers.  Therefore, I support one night stands between drunken strangers.”  Even more illustrative of the silliness of this reasoning is this piece of illogic: “I am the product of rape. Hence, I support rape.”

In reality, most of us are the offspring of, not immigrants, but Americans.  Hannity’s grandparents were immigrants, as were my great grandparents.  But his parents, like mine, were born and bred in America.

Fiction #4: Since the vast majority of contemporary immigrants are Hispanic, opposition to contemporary immigration policy stems from “racism” toward Hispanics.

Fact: This isn’t true, but even if it was, we are once again left asking: And…?  The citizenry of a sovereign nation has the right to select for itself that immigration policy that it believes best serves the interests of its country.   This policy in turn may be a policy of no immigration, or it may be a policy of massive immigration.  It may permit only immigrants from Sweden, or only those from Africa.  Americans don’t owe anyone who isn’t already a citizen the rights and duties of American citizenship.

Fact: Current levels of immigration would be just as undesirable as they presently are even if all of our immigrants hailed from Sweden: there are simply too many people that have come to America legally and illegally.  However, in truth, most of our immigrants are low skilled workers who hail from largely dysfunctional third world countries.

The out-of-wedlock birthrate among Hispanics exceeds that of American whites and blacks.  High school drop-out and gang membership rates are also higher among Hispanics than among whites and blacks.

This judgment isn’t rooted in “racism.” It is rooted in reality.

If we are going to have a productive immigration policy, we need first to speak honestly about immigration.

“War is hell.”

Daniel Somers and his family didn’t need Sherman to tell them this.

Somers was a distinguished Iraq War veteran who killed himself on June 10.  The hundreds of combat missions and other action of which he partook left Somers with a legacy of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, brain injuries, and an assortment of war-induced injuries that rendered every moment of daily existence intolerable.

Shortly before taking his life, he wrote a letter bidding farewell to his loved ones.  The latter has since given Gawker permission to publish it.

Upon informing his family that it was his love for them that managed to keep him alive this long, Somers goes on to describe his body as “a cage, a source of pain and constant problems,” and his mind as “a wasteland, filled with visions of incredible horror, unceasing depression, and crippling anxiety [.]”  Somers writes that he is incapable of laughing and crying, incapable of deriving pleasure from any activity, save sleep.  Thus, “to sleep forever seems to be the most merciful thing.”

He assures his loved ones that it is not they who brought him to this point, but the government that forced him “to participate in things, the enormity of which is hard to describe.”  During his first deployment in Iraq, Somers states, he and his comrades-in-arms were made to perpetrate “war crimes, crimes against humanity.”

Though he insists that he made his “best effort to stop these events,” he is equally insistent that they were too horrible in nature from which to bounce back.  Only “a sociopath” could achieve this feat, Somers asserts.

Yet for as unspeakable as these “crimes against humanity” were, it was covering them up that further fueled Somers’ despondency.  “To force me to do these things and then participate in the ensuing coverup [sic] is more than any government has the right to demand.”

While taking shots at Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and Dick Cheney, Somers accuses his government of abandoning, not just himself, but just those veterans who it consigned to the hell of war, including and especially the approximately two dozen veterans who commit suicide each and every day.

Somers’ plight, like that of far too many veterans of the post-9/11 era, is, at best, tragic.  At worst, it is scandalous, an outrage.  In any event, though, its significance lies in the light that it sheds on our politics, particularly the politics of the Republican Party.

War is the one circumstance under which the government conducting it becomes an activist government, i.e. a Big Government. It is the one time, more so than any other, when it is expected that the government will enlist the daily activities of civil society in the service of fulfilling its purposes.  That war is the emblem of Big Government explains why those who wish to see America’s federal government assume this activist role on the domestic scene not infrequently invoke the imagery of war (“The War on Drugs” and “The War on Poverty” are just two examples that come to mind).

But as real conservatives have always known, individual liberty and Big Government are mutually incompatible.  Real conservatives have also known that it is not uncommon for the best laid plans of men—particularly when they are men holding political office—to go awry.  And under no conditions is this more likely to occur than the unconditioned chaos of war.

In spite of this, most of today’s Republicans who insist upon calling themselves “conservatives” maintain that we are at war with an enemy that, because it has none of the distinctness of those governments that we’ve gone to war with in the past, promises to be intractable. Our war is a war without end.

However, a war without end requires a big military without end.

And a big military without end is Big Government without end.

To put it directly, the Republican Party is either self-delusional or deceptive, for its rhetoric of “limited government” and “individual liberty” is radically at odds with its enthusiasm for growing the military ad infinitum.   A smaller, decentralized, truly federal government most definitely is compatible with liberty.  In fact, the latter can’t exist without the former.  Calls for Big Government, though, are nothing less than calls for a drastic diminution of liberty and, as in the case of Somers, ever greater individual suffering.

These Republican “conservatives” should bear in mind what no true conservative would ever need to be told: as long as they get their wish, the Daniel Somers of the world will only multiply.

 

 

While discussing “comprehensive immigration reform”—i.e. amnesty—on Sean Hannity’s television program last week, Ann Coulter had some choice words for Florida Senator and amnesty apologist Marco Rubio.

Referring to Rubio as “the Jack Kevorkian of the Republican Party,” Coulter maintained that Rubio’s assertions to the contrary aside, the country’s illegal immigrants will be on a “pathway to citizenship” long before any meaningful improvements in border security could be expected to occur.  “If Congress was really serious about 100 percent border security,” she said, “they would enforce E-Verify and build a fence.”

Of course Congress is not in the least bit concerned about border security.  But before we see that this is so, there is something more fundamental to bear in mind.

Border security is not a bargaining chip.  It is as much of a non-negotiable in the governing of a nation as fidelity is a non-negotiable in marriage.  Whatever obligations a country’s government can be said to have, there is no duty more basic than that of border security, for unless its borders are secured, the integrity of the country is imperiled.  Similarly, a marriage promises to dissolve unless its most essential obligation, fidelity, the promise of each spouse to “forsake all others,” is discharged.

Spouses, just by virtue of being spouses, owe one another fidelity.  Likewise, governments owe it to their citizens to secure their borders.

Whether border security attracts or alienates voters is of no consequence: a country’s borders must be secured.  It is conditional upon nothing other than the relationship that obtains between a citizenry and its government.

There are still yet other considerations having nothing to do with its details that militate decisively against the Rubio-Schumer amnesty plan.

For starters, pro-amnesty politicians constantly tell us that our immigration system is “broken.”  This is a lie, for the problem is not the laws that constitute “the system” but our government’s refusal, over a span of decades and decades, to enforce those laws.  To put this point another way, if the system is “broken,” it is because politicians, both Democrat and Republican alike, broke it.

And what this in turn means is that the very same people who broke the system now want for us to trust them to construct a brand new indestructible one with which to replace it.

The American citizen who buys this is as big of a fool as one who would trust a man who burned down his house to build him a new one that is fire-proof.

Secondly, our government has proven itself either unwilling or unable to secure our country’s borders.  But not anymore, to hear the Gang of Eight and other amnesty apologists tell it.  If only—if only!—we pass “comprehensive immigration reform,” then the government will finally, at long last, fulfill its constitutional obligation.

As if to strengthen their case, Rubio and his allies spare no occasion to list all of the conditions that they swear the country’s illegal immigrants will have to satisfy on their “pathway to citizenship.”

Just a moment’s reflection readily reveals just how patently absurd is this line.

Our elected representatives are trying their best to convince us that while they failed to secure America’s borders in the past when immigration law was simpler, once the law becomes more complex, this failure will be rectified.

In other words, when their responsibilities were few in number, they were too much for our politicians to handle.  Now, they tell us, all they need is more responsibilities to not only do the job that they pledged to do, but perform it perfectly. This is like a person who fails to discharge his duties as mayor of a small town attempting to persuade us that if only we elected him to the presidency of the United States, then he would become the best mayor ever.

Common sense has delivered its verdict: not for a single moment can any person with an IQ above room temperature, least of all a conservative devoted to liberty and all too aware of the incompetence and inefficiencies of Big Government, endorse the Gang of Eight’s so-called “comprehensive immigration reform.”

 

Let’s be blunt: anyone who endorses anything remotely resembling the “comprehensive immigration reform” currently bandied about in Congress is either a fool or a liar.

Amnesty—and make no mistakes about it, “comprehensive immigration reform,” “a pathway to citizenship,” and whatever other euphemisms its apologists invoke do nothing to change the fact that it is amnesty that they favor—is a fool’s errand of epic proportions.  This becomes obvious once we consider it in light of an analogy from everyday life.

You’re married.  Chief among the obligations inherent in marriage is that of fidelity.  Now, your spouse has chronically failed to fulfill this most basic of duties.  Finally, you’ve had enough.  Upon threatening your philandering spouse with divorce, she acknowledges that your marriage is “broken” before swearing to not only change, but change radically.   Not only will she stop cheating, she promises to transform herself into the epitome of the subservient, loyal, and loving wife.

While you would doubtless want to believe this, you could not do so.

No one could.

Unfortunately, none of the good sense on display here is present in this debate over amnesty—even though the reasoning for the latter is identical to the reasoning of the unfaithful wife.

It is among the most basic obligations of a government to secure its country’s borders.  As fidelity is essential to preserving the integrity of marriage, so too is border security essential to preserving the integrity of a nation.  Indeed, a government that fails to secure its country’s borders is unfaithful to its citizens.

Now, according to the Senate Gang of Eight’s plan, the government will be expected, not only to secure the border, but to see to it that a whole lot of other conditions are satisfied by those who are on “the pathway to citizenship.”

There are a few things to note here.

First, if the government either can’t or won’t fulfill its most basic and simplest of obligations in securing the country’s borders now, there is zero reason to accept its assurances that it will fulfill this duty as well as a bunch of new duties later.  As my old martial arts instructor used to say, you’ve got to learn how to walk before you can learn how to run.

With respect to this issue, our government hasn’t yet learned how to walk, or even crawl.  But the Gang of Eight and their accomplices in the media would have us believe that with the stroke of a pen, the federal government will instantaneously become a marathon runner.

Second, border security is as big of a non-negotiable in governing as fidelity is a non-negotiable in marriage.  The citizens of the United States should no more have to negotiate with their government to secure its borders than spouses should have to negotiate with one another to refrain from engaging in adultery.  Spouses owe it to each other to be faithful. Similarly, the government owes it to its citizens to secure their borders.

However, when Marco Rubio or Chuck Schumer or any other politician favoring amnesty tells us that in order to secure the border we must first place millions of illegal immigrants on a “pathway” to citizenship, what they are essentially saying is that we, the people’s elected representatives, the government, will not discharge our constitutional duty unless you go along with what we want. 

Translation: border security most definitely is negotiable.

And their accomplices in the media, most tragically the so-called “conservative” media, echo this sentiment.

Finally, when Chuck Schumer, Marco Rubio, and their allies in Washington inform us that our immigration system is “broken,” they admit, albeit unwittingly, that they, Republicans and Democrats alike, broke it. Only now, after decades of breaking the system apart piece by piece, they expect for citizens to trust them to construct a new system that is better than ever, a system that will magically solve all of our immigration related issues once and forever.

To take seriously such a claim is to expose oneself as a fool.  To get others to take it seriously is to expose oneself as a liar.