This time, nativists can’t hide behind the word, ‘illegal’

The inscription on the Statue of Liberty. But Stephen Miller reminds us the inscription was added LATER. So, you know, it doesn't count...

The inscription on the Statue of Liberty. But Stephen Miller reminds us the inscription was added LATER. So, you know, I guess it doesn’t count…

You know how the conversation goes with some of our friends who get all worked up about immigrants among us. You call them nativists, and they come back with, “I just object to the fact that they’re illegal!”

Now there’s this:

WASHINGTON — President Trump embraced a proposal on Wednesday to slash legal immigration to the United States in half within a decade by sharply curtailing the ability of American citizens and legal residents to bring family members into the country.

The plan would enact the most far-reaching changes to the system of legal immigration in decades and represents the president’s latest effort to stem the flow of newcomers to the United States. Since taking office, he has barred many visitors from select Muslim-majority countries, limited the influx of refugees, increased immigration arrests and pressed to build a wall along the southern border.

In asking Congress to curb legal immigration, Mr. Trump intensified a debate about national identity, economic growth, worker fairness and American values that animated his campaign last year. Critics said the proposal would undercut the fundamental vision of the United States as a haven for the poor and huddled masses, while the president and his allies said the country had taken in too many low-skilled immigrants for too long to the detriment of American workers….

Well, the advocates for this don’t have “illegal” to hide behind.

They’ll find other excuses, of course. I heard a guy on the radio this morning rattling off numbers of all the people in this country who’ve given up on finding work (and don’t show up in numbers showing we’re pretty much at full employment), implying that these folks might re-enter the workforce once immigrants aren’t taking the jobs and driving down wages. He’d done his homework. But then another guy came on and kind of took those numbers apart.

Here, by the way, is what our senior senator had to say:

But Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, noted that agriculture and tourism were his state’s top two industries. “If this proposal were to become law, it would be devastating to our state’s economy, which relies on this immigrant work force,” he said. “Hotels, restaurants, golf courses and farmers,” he added, “will tell you this proposal to cut legal immigration in half would put their business in peril.”

What Graham was voicing there is the traditional conservative, pro-business view — what was once the standard Republican approach. I can still remember when much of the objection to immigration, legal or illegal, came from the pro-union left. But that equation sort of changed over the years.

The interesting thing is, a key argument being used for keeping these furriners out is an old pro-labor one: These people take jobs from, and lower wages for, American workers. But then, nativists have always said that, too.

Anyway, I suppose this new wrinkle will help separate the folks who are really, truly, just opposed to illegal immigration from those who just don’t want more foreigners here, period.

Should be interesting….

13 thoughts on “This time, nativists can’t hide behind the word, ‘illegal’

  1. Karen Pearson

    If you could just get Americans to take those jobs it would be wonderful. But, considering that minimum wage it well below what it was when adjusted for inflation, and therefore won’t allow a person to actually live on it, Americans refuse those jobs. Having refused one way to get people for those jobs (ie. up the minimum wage), we have in fact chosen another way to get those jobs filled, namely by allowing immigrants in to take them. The only other ways I can think of to fill these jobs are to reinstitute serfdom or slavery. If we choose those we can have people (and their children) working 12-18 hours a day for subsistence pay. Is that what we want?

  2. Bryan Caskey

    Poems aren’t policy guides.

    Is it un-American to give preference to immigrants who speak English? We already require some proficiency in English for naturalization.

    Is it un-American, to regulate the number of immigrants we allow in the country? This seems like a policy question that a poem does not direct.

    People have to immigrate through proper channels, and it’s not unreasonable to give preference to certain people for a variety of reasons or limit numbers in certain ways.

    Basically, pre-1914 we had free and open immigration. If you made it to Ellis Island, then you were an immigrant. Welcome aboard. Almost no one would say that the open immigration back then was a bad thing.

    However, people will say that you can’t have that same open immigration today. Why?

    Well, there’s a certain sense to these two seemingly inconsistent answers. The reason is that the USA before 1914 is quite different than the USA today. What’s the difference?

    Before 1914, people immigrated to jobs. It’s another thing to have free immigration to a welfare state. If you have free and open immigration to a welfare state in which every person gets a certain level of subsistence regardless of whether they work or not, then it’s an impossible system.

    For instance, illegal Mexican immigration is a good thing for the immigrants. They’re clearly better off in the USA working at jobs that pay low wages, because such jobs aren’t even available in Mexico. The employers are better off because they get hard working people to do the jobs. But it’s odd because the system of illegal immigration is what makes it good. If you made open immigration legal from Mexico, what would occur?

    Well, presumably, there would be a flood of people voting with their feet to leave Mexico and live in the US. They would qualify for social security, welfare, and every other entitlement that we currently give to citizens regardless of whether they took jobs or not. That would be unsustainable.

    You cannot have a welfare state and open immigration. I’m not making any value judgments as to either in assertion, I just think it’s a truism. A state cannot give it’s citizens lavish entitlements and also allow anyone to openly immigrate there regardless of productivity.

    It’s interesting because it shows you how interconnected our laws and our liberties are in ways that we don’t first assume. Every interference by the government in the free market has an effect in a myriad of ways.

    1. bud

      True. But non-interference has consequences also. I regard free enterprise capitalism in much the same way I do fire. It’s a fantastic tool that can keep us warm and cook our food. But “unregulated”, i.e. in a fire pit, it can cause destructive and even deadly conflagrations. So let’s have immigration with restrictions but not this English only nonsense. That’s just a form of bigotry.

    2. Brad Warthen Post author

      Rather than answer each of your “Is it unAmerican…” questions, I’ll cut to the chase and pursue a policy for which the bumper-sticker version is, “We’re going to cut legal immigration in half.”

      That’s the bad thing. And the worse thing is that you know THAT is why Trump is signing on to it. It’s the embrace of isolationism, protectionism and nativism that Jeff Flake is so rightly deploring.

      The rest is just obsessing around the edges…

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        And now I’ll digress…

        You ever take a Rorschach test? Neither have I. But I did learn a bit about them in college, during the brief time when I thought about minoring in psychology.

        The part I remember (and after 40 years I could be remembering wrong) was this: The content of what you see isn’t the main thing. It’s not that you’re bats if you see bats, or a perv if all you see is female genitalia. (And why would you see anything ELSE? That’s what I wanna know… :))

        It’s about HOW you perceive. And one of the axes is, do you see the image as a whole, or do you obsess about the little crenellations around the edges?

        As y’all know, I think of myself as a guy who sees the forest (the nativist impulse) rather than the trees (requiring people to have English skills, say).

        So… since I think of myself that way, and LIKE thinking of myself that way, and I remember what I just mentioned about Rorschach tests… would it be possible for me to take such a test and get a candid result? Would I be able to stop myself from TRYING to perceive the images holistically, in a Gestalten manner?

        And I think, probably not. Whenever I’ve taken psychological tests in the past (Knight Ridder was BIG on them), I’ve been acutely aware of what each answer would likely be telling the testers, and while I tried as hard as I could to be honest, I wondered whether that was even possible, between knowing what they wanted and being prejudiced by my own self-concept. I mean, mean what IS honest? I might initially choose B on a multiple-choice test, but then think, No, that says I’m THIS way, when I know good and well I’m THAT way, so answering “B” wouldn’t give an accurate impression…

          1. Mark Stewart

            I read the entire transcripts of Trump’s Mexican and Australian phone calls from January. There are lines in each, most especially the call with the Prime Minister, which seem to be a clear window into the xenophobia of Trump’s mind.

            The transcripts are good contextualization. So when Steven Miller stands at the West Wing podium and hectors about “cosmopolitan bias” there is still more context to be gleaned (and I’m not even going to address the dog whistle nature of that) as to what is driving this White House on this issue. It’s nativism, pure and simple.

            The fact of the matter is we need immigration. That’s just a fact. How we go about arranging it is open for discussion. Proposing to cut legal immigration in half isn’t a solution, however. At least not a viable one.

            Maybe if Trump were honest with his base and said “I’m deporting all of the illegal immigrants, l’m cutting legal immigration and restricting it only to those people with better education and productivity expectations than we hold for y’all – so get moving, and I mean that literally, to take over all those low skill, illegal immigrant jobs I’m freeing up!” If I hear that then I will know the administration is actually agitating to change the country. But that will never be said; instead there is banal talk of how restricting immigration with be a “good thing,” No, it isn’t, it is just pandering, that’s all it is. It’s cynical, manipulative and deeply intolerant. But it is no path forward for America.

  3. Karen Pearson

    Tonight I was interested in what a friend said who has just been back from Washington, DC, and had just seen the National Cathedral for the first time. Awhile back the Daughters of the Confederacy had commisioned a window (there are a lot of them) which features (apparently) a battle with the CSA flag flying. Outside there is now a sign asking people not to be offended by it, b/c it’s being discussed whether they should remove that window. Please understand, this is the CSA flag, not the battle flag (the stars and bars). Personally, I’d get rid of the sign. That flag is a sign of the Confederacy, true, but that’s part of our heritage, for good or ill. It’s not what the KKK likes to fly. I doubt if 2/3 of the people seeing it recognize that flag. Maybe the window should be removed, but I would prefer that the docents explain to the troops of children (and adults) who come through what it depicts, the people who commissioned it, and the historical matrix in which it was commissioned.


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