Coming to America


At the very heart of the 2016 race for president is the immigration issue. Immigration is a real matter, unlike the ones that individuals make up to serve a candidate’s election campaign. So let’s sort through the myths to find the reality. Yes, we are a country of immigrants. That doesn’t mean that like any country, we don’t have a right to control the flow of immigration. In that sense, Donald Trump is right. A country must have legitimate borders or it is not a country at all. However, Trump is wrong about so many other aspects of legal and illegal immigration into the United States that his distortions have tainted the debate.

At the heart of his argument is the claim that illegal immigrants are “pouring” over our borders, necessitating that we build a wall. Whether a President Trump could force Mexico to build that wall is fodder for another column. Pew Research estimates that there are about 11.3 million illegal immigrants presently residing in the U.S. While that is a considerable number, Pew indicates the tally of illegal immigrants has remained stable over the last five years. So while we can’t trivialize the problem, the problem is not getting worse. The same study indicated that about half of our illegal immigrants come from Mexico, but that the number has been falling, not rising.

OK, so Trump is wrong. Illegal immigrants are not “pouring” over our borders. But aren’t many of them “rapists” and “murderers,” as he claims? The short answer is “no.” The Center for Immigration is an organization that opposes “amnesty” for illegal immigrants. Its study shows “no evidence that illegal immigrants are more or less likely than citizens to commit crimes.” If illegal immigration isn’t increasing and illegal immigrants are no more or less likely to commit crimes than our own citizens, what is all the hysteria about? Are undocumented workers taking American jobs? Are Americans really clamoring to take those jobs picking fruit, mowing lawns, and acting as nannies?

Is the problem that the Obama Administration (and, by extension, Hillary Clinton) is soft on illegal immigrants)? The short answer again is “no.” The Obama Administration has been very tough on illegal immigration if one uses deportations as a yardstick of measurement. Obama has deported 23 percent more illegal immigrants than George W. Bush did. In fact, the current administration has been criticized by pro-immigration groups for what they consider heavy-handedness in its deportation policies. Note- During the Democratic National Convention, I saw a group of Hispanics protesting Obama’s deportations. Using Trump’s logic, it would seem we have little to fear regarding illegal immigration if Clinton winds up being an extension of Obama. Yet Trump makes the false claim that Clinton is for “open borders.” You can search long and hard to find any politician in America today that is for “open borders.”

The plight of Syrian refugees has opened up fears that there may be ISIS terrorists among them. Trump has been adept at exploiting what is a legitimate concern, but again he distorts the facts for his own political purpose. If one listens to Trump, the current administration (and, by extension, Clinton) is willing to admit these refugees without proper vetting. In fact, these refugees are subjected to an existing vetting process that takes about two years before they can qualify for admission to the United States. Two years! Trump is correct when he says there is no 100 percent guarantee that the vetting procedures will be effective. No screening procedure is ever flawless. The question becomes “Do you allow any immigrants to come into the country legally?” But not even Trump is for an outright ban on all immigration. He wants to induce talented immigrants who study here in the U.S. to stay here instead of returning home.

Trump has backed off his plan to prohibit all Muslims from entering the U.S. He proposes instead to ban visitors from countries “compromised by terrorism.” As with many of his ever-changing policy proposals, Trump is vague on the specifics. How does one define a country “compromised by terrorism?” With terrorist acts having spread to many countries, including our European allies, does that mean, for example, that we would ban visitors from France and Belgium?

It seems to me that we can agree on at least one aspect of illegal immigration into the United States. Make that two. One is that we should do what it takes to keep illegal immigration to a minimum. Most of us, I believe we should take a stance between ignoring the problem (whether the flow is currently stable or not) or building a giant wall that Mexico almost certainly will not pay for. The other is that we must come up with a realistic way to deal with the 11 million undocumented people who are already here. That means discarding the notion that we can somehow massively deport all of them, breaking up families in the process, and necessitating almost Gestapo-like tactics to search them out. Isn’t there really another way to give undocumented immigrants already here a path to legal citizenship or residency status without breaking up families?

We can welcome immigrants and keep reasonably safe if we avoid the cries of the fearmongers. Our self-worth as a nation depends upon it.