Sorry for such a long-winded and weighty note on a donut Friday. As an Immigrant, I may be overly-sensitive to the current immigration debate, recently fueled by President Trump’s ending of DACA, so I felt compelled to get my thoughts out there. I won’t dwell on technicalities (i.e. whether the executive branch has the authority to implement a policy that contravenes the legislative framework we live under) and will forgo the “dreamers are a sympathetic group” window dressing. I will focus, instead, on trying to debunk some of the misconceptions and myths that seem to be the basis for our inability to pass comprehensive, humane immigration reform. I respectfully submit these views as my own and I understand reasonable people can see things from different perspectives. I don’t expect anyone else to agree with me and I certainly won’t count it against you if you don’t.
As I see it, there are five fallacies that anchor the views of those who would oppose changing the status quo in the direction of more reasonable and accessible immigration policies.
- Fallacy 1: Jobs are scarce. When we imagine there are only so many jobs the economy can support, competing for these jobs seems like a zero-sum game. The reality is more complex and nuanced. For starters, people who work buy stuff, which generates jobs. An aging population has more retirees leaving the workforce, and, people who have done well financially may also choose not to work. Furthermore, not all jobs require the same skills (e.g. I’d make a terrible orange harvester). In the past 16 years, the number of employed people in our economy has grown by 8.7 million and the unemployment rate (the percentage of people who are looking for jobs but can’t find them) has hovered within historically “normal” parameters (between 4% and 10%) and is currently on the low end of that range. Granted, many people have exited the labor force (they are not considered unemployed because they are not looking for jobs) –like I said, it’s complicated, but in general the more people who want to work, the more jobs there are likely to be.
- Fallacy 2: Handouts are many. People, no matter where they come from, prefer to be self-sufficient. Most folks would rather work than depend on the government for cheese. Our social safety-net (Medicaid, food stamps, WIC, Chip, etc.) is designed to prevent people who have fallen on hard times from falling through the cracks. Sure, folks who come to the U.S. from other countries are more likely to need a hand while “learning the ropes” of living in a new country and getting settled (and some immigrants may abuse the system, much like some U.S. citizens abuse the system). However, even if immigrants have a disproportionate need for entitlement programs, on the whole, their marginal contribution to our economy (not to mention our society) is greater than any draw they may have on these resources.
- Fallacy 3: Floodgates will open. This variant of the Slippery Slope logical fallacy goes something like this: If we grant an amnesty, it will provide an incentive for more people to cross our borders illegally. This ethnocentric view of the world sees the U.S. as a bastion of plenty and the rest of the world as the backwaters, a place folks wish to escape the first chance they get. It completely ignores the fact most people would rather remain in the familiar territory they know and love near friends, family and a support network. People looking to cross the border without a permit don’t pause to consider whether a legal precedent makes it more or less likely they will eventually be granted citizenship before deciding to migrate. They weigh their safety and economic prospects before making the terrible choice to embark in an often treacherous journey. Amnesty or lack thereof has little, if any, bearing on this decision.
- Fallacy 4: Isis, Drugs and Bad Hombres. Another scare tactic used is the argument that bad things come from abroad. Fear is a powerful motivator and it is easy to fear that which we do not know. Folks who are different than us can seem scary and make us feel unsafe. To those who would use this argument, let me say, national origin does not make a person good or bad. Furthermore a humane immigration policy is not inconsistent with background checks and it provides an opportunity to do reasonable due-diligence on folks –which is likely to skew the balance towards law abiding citizens. Will immigrants commit crimes? Of course they will! Will their crime rates be disproportionately higher than native U.S. citizens? No. If anything, the screening process will likely make them lower. As for drugs and Isis, people who intend to do harm will find a way to do so with utter disregard for any law we may pass.
- Fallacy 5: We are American. Those who believe our identity as a nation should be cast in concrete, put on a shelve and indelibly memorialized for all time worry about new blood changing things –without realizing change is an inevitable constant. Most of us wouldn’t be here if a xenophobic anti-immigration policy would have been established 525 years ago. According to the results of a test I recently purchased, <2 -and="" a="" americas="" and="" been="" comes="" continent="" dna="" established="" family="" for="" from="" generations="" has="" hypocritical="" immigrants="" is="" it="" latest="" more="" my="" nation="" o:p="" of="" on="" several="" shut-out="" states="" the="" this="" to="" united="" wave.="">2>
I doubt congress will ever agree with my view that freedom of movement and the ability to reside anywhere on the planet should be a human right. Still, I hope these thoughts can permeate some of the fear-based protectionist bias and form the basis for an informed dialog so we can stop kicking the can on this admittedly prickly topic. Having a donut before having this debate wouldn’t hurt either. There is a dozen waiting for any who would partake.