As the longest government shutdown in U.S. history continues with no end in sight, Robert Wilkes and Taylor Rose are back debating immigration, the border wall, and the shutdown. If you missed Part I of their debate, be sure to catch up here. And if you like what you read, check out more Political Pen Pals debates here.
Dear Taylor: I’m happy to buy you a drink, especially after your spirited essay. The existence of people who want zero immigration is depressing. It reminds me of the uncompromising fossil-noggins who think in all-or-nothing dichotomies…
In your rebuttal, you ask about my opinion on Trump’s border wall. I’m for the wall. If you’ve been to Israel, you know walls work. You’re much safer on the streets of Tel Aviv or Jerusalem than Chicago or Baltimore and many other U.S. cities. The current impasse is not about walls, it’s about the next election. The Chief of the US Border Patrol said, “We certainly need a wall, any agent will tell you that.” I prefer to believe the people that we put in harm’s way, who risk their lives every day to protect us, than a pack of political weasels that prioritize the 2020 election over the safety of our citizens.
As I write this, the government is shut down over this silly argument. This is opera buffa; surreal political kabuki. It’s the government we elected, and sadly, the government we deserve. Henry Kissinger said, “Academic politics are vicious because the stakes are so small.” This inane impasse over the wall proves old Henry’s vision is not limited to academe.
When we get “over” the wall, there are very real and important issues at stake. Not to be overly catastrophic, but it’s about the future of our nation. Most Americans have yet to see it that way, but Europeans increasingly do. Ask a Swedish woman who is terrified to walk down the street alone in Malmo, or a Parisian who knows it’s not a good idea to get off the train at Gare du Nord in the 10th Arrondissement.
Beyond walls, I applaud your work rebutting my complaints about the costs of illegal immigration to taxpayers. However, according to a 2014 report on fairus.org, the cost of educating, providing health care, and social services to illegal immigrants (and their US-born children) in California costs $2,370 per household. That doesn’t seem insignificant to me.
In your response, I had some difficulty deducing where you stand on the immigration debate. I understand what you are against, but what are you for? In my opener, I talked about open borders, rule of law, and, in a more complex argument, what effect unlimited immigration might have on our unique national ideals and institutions. My reference for that argument is the erosion of national identity in many countries in Europe resulting from waves of immigrants who don’t share the national aspirations, national narrative, and national character of the French, Germans, Belgians, Norwegians and Swedes (and who show no interest in adopting them). Those countries, and others, are gradually going out of business as we know them.
I argued against the idea that the US should have open borders. I define “open borders” as attitudes and policies in support of:
- The free-flow of people from other countries into the US, especially those who can claim victim status. For example, they come from countries that are perceived as war-torn, economically disadvantaged, or unsafe due to high crime rates.
- Continuing the practice of “birth-tourism,” that a child (called an anchor baby) born to a mother who is physically on US territory is automatically a citizen. The legal term is jus soli and is translated “law alone” but commonly thought of as “right of soil.” This is opposed to most other countries in the world which are jus sanguinis.
And in opposition to:
- Laws (or the enforcement of laws) that result in deportation of illegal aliens.
- Remanding illegal aliens held by state and local criminal justice systems into the custody of federal authorities such as ICE; manifested by state and local laws declaring sanctuary cities and sanctuary states.
- Policies that would require employers to “e-verify” the immigration status of prospective employees.
- Trump’s wall.
You say that liberal immigration policies are right morally and economically. Which of these open border policies are right morally or economically?
We may disagree on a lot, but I believe we do agree on some issues. For example, I don’t believe we should round up and deport people that have been living in the US for years and are contributing to our economy. Agricultural workers in the Yakima Valley here in Washington State send sons and daughters into the military where they proudly fight (and die) for the U.S., our country. Makes you pause and thank our stars we’re Americans. These people should be treated with dignity and offered a legal path to citizenship.
There are many other things we can agree on, and that’s my point. Whatever your immigration philosophy, or mine, let’s get it done. We need comprehensive immigration reform that creates order, rule of law, and opens our doors to legal immigration. This pathetic cat fight over a wall is not the solution, it’s an embarrassment.
Anyways, I’m buying the first round.
As a liberal living in Donald Trump’s America, it has become easy to only argue against the policies I disagree with. However, you challenge me to affirmatively outline my vision of American immigration policy. Fair enough. As Alexander Hamilton once sang: if you stand for nothing, what will you fall for? Here’s the immigration policy that I believe America should needs:
- Improved asylum policies: I believe that it is a core American value to welcome asylum seekers. Our country was founded by immigrants attempting to escape from religious persecution. In the centuries that followed, America grew through immigration—first from western Europe, then southern and eastern Europe. Now, immigrants from all over the globe wish to become Americans. There have been dark times in this country’s history when we failed to welcome immigrants and have come to regret it, like in the 1930s and 40s when Jewish refugees were denied asylum while trying to escape the Nazi regime. If we are to learn from our mistakes, then we should welcome those seeking asylum with open arms. We have no less responsibility to today’s asylum seekers fleeing conflicts in Central or South America and the Middle East.
- DREAMers: I actually have a few friends who are DREAMers and they are some of the smartest, hardest working people I know. They are getting PhDs, making careers in the private sector, and even serving in our military. They are as American as me. Except that they came to the United States when they were toddlers whereas I was born here. The President does not seem to care, though, and is willing to deport them to countries most of the DREAMers have no recollection of. I can’t fathom why we would force such talented, patriotic individuals out of our country.
- Pathways to citizenship: Illegal immigration is not an ideal situation for anyone. Crossing the border is dangerous—people who cross recognize that they are risking capture by traffickers and jail time. Potentially even death. Yet they still come to America. The US would benefit by giving these people a path to citizenship. As you yourself pointed out, immigrants contribute to our economy. It seems like it would be a win-win to grant these people an opportunity to obtain citizenship and end their fear of deportation. Of course, such policies should be limited to illegal immigrants who wish to contribute to our society. I agree that violent criminals should be deported.
- Economic stimulus for Central America: The best way to address a problem is at its root. In this case, one of the root causes of illegal immigration is the dire economic situation and security issues faced by citizens of Mexico and other Central American countries. The US should provide economic aid and other support to these countries to help them build up their economies and provide their people with a better life. Only when we help improve the security and prosperity of the people of Mexico and Central America will illegal immigration cease.
That is where I stand. And now for something I stand against. I fundamentally disagree with Trump’s border wall. It is a 14th century solution to a 21st century problem. There are likely sections of the border that require improved physical barriers. However, the illegal immigration and drug smuggling problem is complicated and assuming that a wall will solve this problems is fallacious. Don’t just take my word for it. In an interview on Jan 17, Rep. William Hurd, whose Congressional district makes up 800 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border, explained that a wall would not prevent much of the smuggling of drugs and guns in his district. Most of those items come in through legal ports of entry. He also stated that he didn’t think it would stop illegal immigration as people who cross the border illegally typically come from the most desperate of situations. The wall isn’t going to stop them.
Instead of throwing billions of taxpayer money into a wall that will not solve the problem, the president should work towards a multi-pronged solution that includes physical barriers (as a deterrent), improved immigration laws (to address the root cause of the problem), and the use of technology (to capture the most innovative smugglers of guns, drugs, and people).
You say that walls works and argue that you are safer in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem than Chicago or Baltimore. As a woman who lives alone in a large city (Philly, go Birds!) and walks by herself after dark regularly, I am afraid to walk alone at night not because of illegal immigrants but because I live in a society where men think they have a right to shout and grab me. I often carry keys in my hands or pretend to be on the phone to ward off potential dangers. I believe that many other women would agree with me. We need to stop blaming illegal immigrants for the ills of our own culture.
As for the shutdown, there is currently one person in the US who can end this. Here’s a few reasons the President should end the shutdown today:
- Economists now believe that the shutdown could initiate an economic contraction, the first step to an economic recession
- Some federal employees have now gone one month without receiving a paycheck and are making choices about whether to feed their children or pay their mortgages
- January 16, 2019 marks the first time, possibly in history, that the US is delaying paychecks for members of the US Coast Guard
- US airports are at risk of facing major delays and possibly dangers as TSA workers continue to call in sick to protest their lack of pay
You will note, of course, the irony that Trump shut down the government for border security but two absolutely critical agencies in that effort, the Coast Guard and the Transportation Security Agency, are being negatively affected. Nonetheless, the president continues to stomp his feet and demand $5 billion for a campaign promise.
Robert, I’m pleasantly surprised by how many immigration issues we can agree on. I sincerely hope that Congress and the President can come together to end the shutdown. In the meantime, I look forward to continuing our conversation on this topic and many others.
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