The President and Congress are heading for a collision over how to handle the “crisis” caused by a flood of underage immigrants – children and adolescents – across the Mexican border from failing, gang-ridden states in Central America.
Congress – particularly the Republican House majority – see our present difficulties as an opportunity to blame Mr. Obama for something else. With mid-term elections four-months away, this understandable – but it is also poor citizenship.
Republicans can blame the President, by all means. And he can blame them. There’s ample blame to go around.
What’s needed is a solution.
As a sovereign nation, the United States must have a reasonable ability to control who crosses its borders.
Yet neither party wants to deal seriously with this issue.
The Democrats – less a party than a coalition of disadvantaged demographic groups – are thrilled at the prospect of millions of Hispanic immigrants, legal or illegal, who might eventually become Democratic voters.
The Republicans – less a party than a wholly-owned subsidiary of America’s biggest corporations – are thrilled at the prospect of millions of illegal immigrants who can be hired to do jobs which might otherwise go to American citizens. American citizens, of course, being entitled to all those pesky entitlements such as a minimum wage, overtime, Social Security, safe working conditions, etc.
We all know the tune. Both parties, for very different reasons, love illegal immigrants. Or rather, they love the uses to which such immigrants can be put.
But most of us – regular Americans who want jobs for ourselves and our kids, and would prefer to pay less to take care of folks who really shouldn’t be here – agree pretty strongly that the United States should be able to control its own borders.
The second reason we need an urgent solution to this new problem is because these are kids.
Allowing that both parties might have some basis for looking benignly upon illegal immigrants – as potential future voters or as under-the-table sweatshop labor – neither party has a moral right to score points at the expense of kids.
Especially not if scoring those points results in making those kids’ lives miserable.
Now, I know. These are not our kids. Unlike most progressives, I reject the notion that the United States is somehow required to open its doors to everyone in the world who is oppressed, poor, or desperate for a better life.
In fact, I find that way of thinking terrifying.
Our planet is overpopulated. This week, the best estimate is that there are nearly 7.25 billion of us – and that number rises daily.
The United States has only 322 million residents. We have plenty of room for more.
But we operate under a system of government which rests – ultimately – upon a great many unwritten assumptions about freedom; equality; responsibility; toleration; the application of the law to everyone; restraints on official power; etc.
These assumptions define who we are and make our version of democracy workable.
If we are to remain a free society, those who come here to join us must acquire – through a process of education and assimilation – what those of us who are born and raised here are supposed to have learned from the cradle.
A manageable number of immigrants – regardless of where they come from – can be so educated and assimilated.
A huge influx of immigrants – especially if they come from societies radically different from ours – might well fail to be assimilated.
It seems to me imperative, then, that we regain control of our borders – or, rather, of the processes of immigration into this country. We need to be certain that those who join us are willing and able to become citizens of a free republic.
Their music, food, and other customs may be different. Those differences will enrich us. But if they fail to learn and adopt our basic ideals about self-government, they will impoverish us in a far more vital way.
The urgency of devising a workable, twenty-first century system for controlling immigration will become increasing obvious as our planet continues to warm.
One effect – desertification – has already forced millions off once-livable “drylands” into neighboring territories. The result can be war – as in the recent genocide in Sudan’s Darfur region.
If you’re interested, the US Department of Agriculture has some good, easy-to-find maps forecasting global desertification.
Another effect – rising seas – is more obvious. Around the world, hundreds of millions of people live on islands or in coastal areas which are slowly, inexorably, becoming unlivable because of marine encroachment and the salinization of once-fertile soils.
All this means that more and more dislocated people will be trying to get into countries seen as offering safety and opportunity. The pressure will mount with every passing year.
And our two parties are doing nothing – absolutely nothing – to prepare us for that.