Immigration for All: How About Letting Them All In?

Immigration for All: How About Letting Them All In? January 22, 2019

“If Immigration says I’m an ‘alien,’ I get to pick the planet.” I thought that over. “Good enough, and welcome to Earth.”


Immigrants, I’ve discovered, like telling their stories and I’m pretty forward in asking. I hear an accent I want to know where it comes from.

  • I met an Indian Sikh woman who honors Christmas every year with a tree, a real tree, not a fake. She is clear about that, adamant, not artificial. It is part of what makes her feel like an American. But it was 10 years getting here before she could put a tree up in the United States. Her application for U.S. entry was initially rebuffed. She could not gain direct entry to the United States, but she could get to Canada. So she lived in Toronto for those 10 years. Canada, a member of the Commonwealth with India, placed fewer barriers in her way and from there, once all her Canadian were credentials were in place, she got her visa and moved to Kansas City. (Yeah, that was kind of my reaction too.)
  • The first lawyer I call when I need one is a Vietnamese woman who graduated law 16 years ago. She was 9 when she and her family, along with others, became part of the “boat people” exodus out of Vietnam during the late 1970’s through the early 1980’s. Her boat was threatened by pirates; several died at sea before they were rescued. She doesn’t speak of it much.
  • At an Alexandria, Virginia gas station I asked the guy behind the counter where he was from. “Mars,” he said. He must have sensed my skepticism. “No, really. I’ll show you.” He pulled out his residency card, covered part of it up with his thumb so the only word I could read was “Alien.” “It doesn’t say Mars,” I pointed out. “If Immigration says I’m an ‘alien,’ I get to pick the planet.” I thought that over. “Good enough, and welcome to Earth.”
  • I asked the young clerk at the library where she was from. She wanted to know why I thought she was from anywhere. “Is it my scarf?” No. There was a mosque nearby; scarves aren’t unusual. It was her accent, I said. Her hands fluttered. “Accent! I have an accent?” Up to that moment I thought so. All of a sudden I wasn’t so sure. I have serious hearing loss; I might be mistaken. No, she admitted, resigned, she did have an accent. “I was eleven when our family came here from the U.A.E. and,” she added, carefully enunciating every single word, “you have $1.50 in fines.”
  • My wife taught a fifth grade classroom filled with Hispanic kids, most but not all with Mexican backgrounds. There was no way to know who had proper documents or who did not. Very few of the kids read or wrote Spanish. Every morning in class, legal or not, they stood with hand over heart and recited the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag of the United States of America. I know a couple guys – nice guys otherwise – who think kids like those in my wife’s class room should be rounded up and deported, they and their families, period, no appeal. When did we become so cold? We are speaking of perhaps several millions – with kids – here, now. Perhaps we can credit them a little sweat equity toward permanent residency?

My immigration policy is let ‘em all in. That’s probably not the best public policy but I think we should nudge that way with any immigration strategy we devise. Look at this: 10 years in Canada to get here legally, or living here in the legal shadows without documents. It is all something of the same, isn’t it, to the people so desperate to be here?

What about the border? Sure, clamp it down; build the wall. Perhaps it will permit a more orderly, safer entry under a more generous policy. But for now, while the law seems designed to condemn “illegals,” it provides no way to let anyone become legal. It is easier to use unlawful status as proof of moral deficiency instead of using it to expose the bankruptcy of our laws.

It is also well to remember what our experience with generations of immigrants has taught us. By the third generation, today’s spooky aliens have invariably assimilated and not a few have intermarried, and they have grandchildren who know little and care less about their country of origin. So, one more story:

  • I called her grandma (mostly out of envy for my cousin who’s grandmother she really was). She came directly from Germany in the early 1900’s. She never learned to read or write English, but she laboriously learned to spell the names of her grandchildren, and mine, and spoke English with a thick German accent. During World War I she was suspected of being unpatriotic. The local grocery refused to sell to her (she relied on neighbors – those who would speak to her – for her shopping). By the time my cousin and I were born, we were third generation German. The few German novelty words we knew came from Grandma Kahle.
Russell E. Saltzman publishes every Tuesday and Thursday at noon Central Time. He can be reached on Twitter as @RESaltzman, on Facebook as Russ Saltzman, and by email:
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  • Can they stay at your house?

    Seriously. We have a country that has more than 12 million empty houses and more than 500,000 homeless people. The real problem that causes the slow immigration system is greed. I don’t understand why anybody in poverty would want to come to a country where if you are too poor to pay the hospital bill for a birth, Oregon and New York taxpayers will foot the bill to kill your child.

    We treat poor people like garbage. New immigrants are treated even worse. This isn’t the land of opportunity, not for them, this is the land of starving to death in the streets so that the rich guy can have yet another vacation home he’ll never set foot in, because he’s too busy staying rich.

    1 out of every 6 children conceived in this country are killed in the womb so that we may maintain our “high standard of living”- that is, because we are unwilling to share with the next generation. What makes you think we want to share with immigrants if we won’t even share with our own kids?

    P.S.- on an edit- I actually do agree with you. I believe in this day and age of biometric database keys and Total Information Awareness, immigration decisions should not be based on quota, but should be based on a simple background check. On Dominos Pizza rules: 30 minutes or it’s granted.

    Asylum needs a deeper look, because dictators are well, dicktators and they plant false information for their enemies. But the vast majority of immigrants aren’t seeking asylum. They are seeking economic opportunity. I say let them come.

    Then when they discover being an American means working 60 hours a week unpaid overtime and want to go home, don’t send them straight back. Give them lessons in capitalism. Allow them to buy solar phone chargers and chickens and seed first. THEN send them back to teach their countrymen how to create opportunity at home.

    Because there is a lot more opportunity in a village in the Congo that doesn’t have electricity yet, than there is in a country with a power grid.

  • Russell E Saltzman

    Sure. We’d take a family. Been there, done that: Vietnamese resettlement, Cambodian resettlement, Polish resettlement (after Solidarity crackdown). The U.S. resettled upwards of 22,000 Vietnamese between April and December in 1975, largely through the work of Catholic Immigration Services, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services, others, finding them sponsors (typically a church congregation). If we concentrated more on welcoming, less on excluding, we’d be a happier country. Me, I’d try open residency (I like your 30 minutes or less), but perhaps extend the time to naturalization by several years. Thank you for the note..

  • One could point out though you’re not just asking about one family. If we’re throwing open the border, we’re talking about a potential of several million families a year.

    And one could also point out, there are people sleeping in your local parks *right now* that you could take in, people who are citizens, who are economic refugees within our own nation. People you owe an allegiance to right now, without them having to come from far away.

    Having said that, I’m even for naturalization being extremely quick. Should only take two courses and a test, and one of those courses can already be found online pretty easily. Language and civics should be all that should be required, along with basic literacy. I’d like to see it take 9 months or less.

    The quicker naturalization and assimilation go, the sooner we can benefit as a nation from the new immigrants.

  • Russell E Saltzman

    “One could point out though you’re not just asking about one family. If we’re throwing open the border, we’re talking about a potential of several million families a year.”

    One could, but beyond that point we’re talking mere logistics and volunteer institutional recruitment.As for the several millions of families a year, one possibly is excluding the family members already with here for support, and the ready immigrant communities present. People just didn’t land at Ellis Island without dozens of ethnic immigrant societies already present.

    As for those sleeping on park benches, most of the hardcore homeless I have known and know – plus a couple who probably would be homeless, except for family effort – honestly seem to take a definite pride in being off the grid entirely. Yet you raise a point. But (not to signal any particular virtues) I have occasionally taken folks to my home, gone to a church for a first month’s rent and deposit, with accompanying pantry shower. Any parish could do it – two, three a year for who needed just a little push and a little support and soon enough they’d be paying Kansas City, Missouri’s 9% sales tax just like the rest of us solid citizens. People who work in this field, though, tell me for every 10, maybe you get none permanently off the street, and for every thousand, maybe one. As to why, that’s another series of stories, but I’d guess it is the effort, not the result, that counts.