Fred LaSor: Let’s talk immigration
for the Nevada Appeal
Except for Donald Trump, today’s presidential candidates are reluctant to discuss immigration. I’m deeply troubled by where we are going on this front and by the lack of honest discussion.
We’re all children of immigrants on this continent, even Native Americans. Some have been here for centuries, others have just arrived. Some came to escape a life they found intolerable, others came in pursuit of prosperity and endless horizons.
However and whenever we came, we must recognize we have benefitted from, and owe respect to, the laws that govern life here. We have a social contract, if you will.
The portion of that social contract dealing with new arrivals has not been constant. For a long time one could walk into the United States unhindered. More recently, regulations were established to control immigration, partly because of better transportation links like commercial airlines, partly to accomplish what were considered desirable social goals like reducing the proportion of white Europeans relative to other groups.
Today’s laws allow a specific number of immigrants to arrive annually from different parts of the world. Many of them have been in process for years — applying at an embassy, collecting documentation to satisfy our policies, and making the move in an orderly fashion. But others choose not to follow laws established to impose order on the human influx into our country.
Two groups violate immigration law: Those who arrive legally on a non-immigrant visa and stay beyond the allotted time, and those who cross the border with no visa and ignore the law. Both are called “illegal immigrants” because they have broken immigration law by the manner in which they stayed or arrived in the first place. Illegal is not a moral judgement, it merely differentiates them from someone who followed the law when they came.
Let’s not forget: Many who cross our southern border are following a long-standing custom, legal between 1942 and 1965, of coming for the seasonal harvest and returning when it’s done. That program stopped in the 1960s under pressure from civil rights activists (including United Farm Workers’ founder Cesar Chavez), who called it exploitative. The program has stopped, but economic pressure remains for workers to sneak in, work for a season, then return home.
Then the Obama administration decided to change the rules. Word came down not to repatriate border-crossers, particularly from Central America, who claimed refugee status. A major effort was made to settle minors instead of sending them home. Word of that policy change quickly got back to countries like Guatemala and Honduras, and tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors streamed north just in the past three years in the hope they could stay without following immigration procedures.
The same policy has now been expanded to include tens of thousands of people, many young men, fleeing political turmoil in Syria. While this too is cast in humanitarian terms, it’s hard to avoid the suspicion that it’s really an attempt to change American political demographics in a hurry: to grant quick amnesty in expectation of future votes.
We have seen the ugly results of open immigration across the Atlantic. European governments are reconsidering their open door policy because the human flood is just too great to assimilate. If we don’t consider the same option America is going to be permanently changed. What has taken us two and a half generations to create can be overwhelmed by a human tsunami with no respect for our laws and little desire to become American. The “huddled masses yearning to breath free” liberals talk about are actually an invading army.
Fred LaSor worked as an American diplomat more than a quarter century. He lives now in Minden.