Republicans and Democrats both miss the mark on immigration policy. The practical answer lies in the middle ground between the pundit’s positions. Much heat, but little light surrounds the debate. The reason is simple; the parties are locked in a titanic tug of war for the hearts and minds of voters.
Scoring points and scaring the hell out of voters has become more important than solving the problem. It’s time for immigration policy to be considered dispassionately.
Why is immigration, both legal and illegal, even an issue? It’s because it hardly affects voters, but it could. Unless you are a property owner along the Mexican border, or an underemployed high school dropout in Southern California, immigration problems simply do not touch your life.
I live very close to Dearborn, Michigan. Life hasn’t changed one iota since the influx of Arabs into the area. If you drive through Dearborn, you occasionally see a sign in Arabic, and perhaps a few women wearing head scarves. That’s it. There is no Sharia law. I haven’t witnessed a single beheading. It is a suburb similar to any other middle class suburb in the United States.
The Dearborn of the public imagination is far more sinister. When I talk to people in my travels around the country, I’m always asked if there is Sharia law there. I’m asked if I worry about terrorism. I get comments like, “How can you stand to be around those people?”
We get along just fine. Remember, they came here to get away from the craziness in the Middle East. Many of them run clean stores, restaurants and gas stations. Their food is really good, and the entire Detroit area has developed a taste for shwarma. The young speak English very well. The older ones have problems with English, but so did my friends Polish grandmothers when I was growing up. Nobody seemed to care if those Polish grandmothers spoke English, I see no reason why Arabic grandmothers cannot be accorded the same freedom.
Illegal Immigration must be controlled and sensible immigration policy implemented
Illegal immigration, however, must be stopped. It is a potential pathway for very bad men to wreck disaster upon us. How to stop it creates debate. I’m not sure that building a wall is the best way to stop it. For one thing, a wall already exists where one is needed. In other areas, there are better, cheaper ways to stop infiltration. It isn’t the flimsy chain link fence that keeps trespassers out of Area 51, it’s the electronic surveillance. Perhaps someone should drop a dime to DARPA and ask for some anti infiltration ideas. The US Army probably has some good ideas as well.
Finally, our preeminence in the world depends on legal immigration. Genius happens without regard to religion. Excluding groups leads to missed opportunities. Historians argue, for example, that Hitler lost WWII the day he forced Jews out of Germany. Einstein, and other German Jews immigrated and applied their genius to developing the atomic bomb for the United States. Tesla and Steinmetz were both immigrants who might have been turned away at our borders. Tesla came from Serbia before WWI when it was a hotbed for anarchy. Steinmetz nearly got turned away at Ellis Island because he was a hunchback. Had they been turned away, we might never have developed our preeminence in the world in electricity and electronics. Those men along with Thomas Edison, provided the theoretical underpinnings for General Electric.
This is the first of four articles. The next will be how to deal with the illegal immigrants already in the country, the third will be why we need legal immigration, and the final will be about the smartest immigration policy going forward.