Missing the Point – Immigration:  Who do the Republicans think they’re kidding?

Happy New Year, everybody.

“Thoughtless bigots, politically self-centered officeholders stoking and playing to the fears of otherwise well-meaning Americans who look to them for leadership.”  How’s that for a description of Republicans holding our foreign policy hostage until we solve border security problems on their terms?  My two-year-old granddaughter is more mature.  Maybe all the offending Republicans need is a hug?  If only it were that easy.

Full disclosure, I’m a third-generation American.  What that means is that my grandparents were immigrants.  My parents and I were born in the United States.

According to Gallup polling conducted in 2001, “A Majority of Americans Identify Themselves as Third-Generation Americans.”  In 2013, the Census Bureau told us that 12.9%, over 40 million people ten years ago, were first-generation immigrants.  Another 11.7%, over 30 million more, were second-generation immigrants.  And everybody else, the other 75.4% which was more than 234 million Americans, were third or more generations removed from their predecessors who came here from someplace else.  In the beginning, with the notable exception of Native Americans, we were all immigrants.  It’s who we are and in no small part the secret to our success.

Immigrant traffic along our southern border is imposing unacceptable pressures on local governments and economies.  According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, in 2023 through September 30, 2023, there have been almost 2.5 million “southwest land border encounters” during the prior twelve-month federal government fiscal year.

To be clear, the problem isn’t the number of potential immigrants that we’re talking about as a proportion of our 332 million total population.  In a study published last month, the Census Bureau forecasts that our national population will reach a high of 370 million in 2080 and then start declining at projected growth rates.

We are a consumer demand-driven capitalist economy from which taxes generated to pay for government services are far short of what we’re spending – hence our incomprehensibly huge national debt of almost $34 trillion.  Breathtaking, isn’t it?  If you – and I’m talking to Republican conservatives in particular – think we’re in fiscal trouble now, wait until we have fewer and fewer people.  Think how we’ll fare, domestically and relative to our principal world competitors, in an era of declining tax revenues.

And then there are the labor shortages that are everywhere in our economy.  Not incidentally, these shortages, including in the manufacturing sector, are making us increasingly dependent upon foreign trade.  …Are you paying attention, Republicans?  You preach the nationalization of production but don’t have the labor force to make it happen.

There is no question about it.  We need more immigrants.  More people are motivated to put everything on the line to come here and build a future for their families.  At our core, we are a kind and tolerant people.  Where these immigrants come from shouldn’t matter.  But it does, doesn’t it?  It matters to Republicans running for President and in Congress who either speak or fail to criticize the vile language and stated intentions of their principal leader.

Clearly, the influx of Central and South American immigrants into our southwestern states is difficult for us to handle, administratively and with respect to the disproportionate burden on these states and the local communities most directly affected.  But then these problems can be easily resolved by cooperative compromise and common sense systems management.  Integrating legitimate immigrants into our greater economy is difficult, but doable.  More to the point, it’s essential to our continuing development and growth, both internally as a prosperous people and internationally as a world leader.

What is completely unacceptable and cannot be resolved expeditiously is the apparently deep-routed and now blatant prejudice espoused by the Republican Party leadership.  They’re not complaining about immigration from Canada, Europe, Africa or Asia.  They – these Republicans – will tell you that it’s because the numbers of immigrants coming from these other places are too small and the immigrants too polite to be a problem.  And they’re right, I guess, but it doesn’t explain their clearly expressed animosity toward Hispanic immigrants in particular.

Let’s be honest about it.  It’s not that they’re immigrants per se and so many of them that’s bothering some Republican candidates and elected officials.  It’s the color of their skin.

Republicans reading this:  The cat, so to speak, is out of the bag.  Yes, I will now mention former President and now a candidate for re-election, Donald Trump.  “Because,” I say sarcastically, “an op/ed without mentioning Donald Trump is like a day without sunshine.”  It’s not just about the disgusting manner in which he talks about these Central and South American immigrants.  He is just one guy, as dumb as he is nuts – a strangely charismatic personality for many Americans who live off the reaction of the media and adoration of crowds.  If only it weren’t so apparent that he means to do what he says.

The problem isn’t Donald, it’s that he has a following that explicitly and implicitly condones his statements by their own remarks and, most importantly, by their silence.

If someone with authority uses anti-Black or anti-Semitic rhetoric for whatever reasons – and as a basis for making government policy in particular – to say nothing to criticize that language is to lend support for its sentiments.  Saying nothing is not the same as disagreeing.  If that’s what you think, whether you’re a Republican candidate, Congressman or woman, Governor or just a registered voter, whatever your party affiliation, you’ve missed the point and have become, in no small way, part of the problem.

This is not me waxing sentimentally about a statue in the New York City harbor.  No.  However inspiring her words, we don’t need Emma Lazarus to remind us of basic decency, not to mention the economic common sense that mandates that we welcome people who have already proven their right to be here just by virtue of having made it to our borders in the first place.  All of us, most especially the Republicans among us, need to show as much courage in standing up to the jerk who mocks our history by professing that he is here to save us.