No issue has remained center-stage throughout American history like immigration.
19th century Americans complained about Irish, Asian and German waves of immigrants that flooded through Ellis Island and San Francisco. Next, Italian immigrants became despised as threats to the livelihood of hard working Americans﹘many of whom were the first in their families to be born inside the United States.
Now, we face the same conversation in a different time, except today’s villains come from our neighbor to the south, Mexico.
For decades, unemployment, low wages and drug-related violence in Mexico have contrasted with our United States to depict them as a land of milk and honey to individuals and families desperate to improve their lot in life. Unfortunately, along with hard-working and well-meaning immigrants have come dangerous and socially toxic criminals. For the malignant to accompany the benign is unavoidable, but in the case of immigration, we use filters (such as Ellis Island) to determine whether a potential immigrant will be beneficial or detrimental to the health of our country.
But when the immigrants are our close neighbors and thus separated not by an ocean but an easily conquered fence or river, the issue becomes more convoluted. Such a simple route into the promised land can make the labyrinthine immigration process seem a waste of time.
Donald Trump’s most recent reality show has reinvigorated the debate over immigration in our country, especially among Republicans. After announcing his campaign for the White House, Trump catapulted himself into the public eye by establishing a strong, inflexible policy on illegal immigration.
“I will build a wall,” he says, promising to keep out the “bad people...that the Mexican government forces into our country." Since this brash display of confident ignorance, Trump’s Republican competitors have been forced to dive into the issue and answer questions about how they will face the illegal immigration threat.
Some have fallen right in line behind trump, such as Ted Cruz, who hopes to pick up Trump’s massive support base when he spirals out of control in a binge of politically incorrect slurs. Others have only imitated parts of his policy in order to avoid alienating any potential Republican voters, such as Jeb Bush, who recently came under fire for referring to children born to illegal immigrants as “anchor babies."
In response to the conservative hardball position, the liberal camp has shown compassion, empathy and short-sighted generosity to illegal immigrant. Liberals maintain that these immigrants are simply humans trading a dehumanizing situation for a country which will reward hard work and provide opportunities for success.Therefore, the argument goes, the ethical way to respond is by helping these refugees, rather than hindering them with deportation and pesky taxes.
Although empathy is essential within a society, integrity is as well. If our country does not uphold those laws which are designed to welcome productive individuals and turn away poisonous ones, we set a dangerous precedent.
A society is merely a collection of individuals, and we all understand the danger that just one bad apple can have on a group project or gathering. If we have no way to limit the quality and quantity of immigrants, we will suffer.
On the other hand, the process of becoming a legal citizen of the United States is incredibly arduous for those not fortunate enough to be born here. Paperwork, wait times and ridiculous requirements can drown anyone desiring nothing more than to work hard and earn a living for themselves or their family.
Illegal immigration is not the disease eating away at America’s vitality, it a symptom of a disease which was born out of our bureaucratic and unreasonable process of becoming a US citizen.
Walls and government payouts are both ineffective to deal with the current problem of illegal immigration, because they sidestep the true issue, which is a flawed immigration system. The process of becoming a US citizen must be simplified to welcome those who want nothing more than to benefit and contribute to our free society.
Nigel is a sophomore pursuing a double major in history and psychology.