Reconsidering Immigration

Reconsidering Immigration July 13, 2019

Andrew Sullivan wrote an interesting article a couple of weeks ago about how immigration was handled during the Democratic debate. He argues that the candidates painted themselves into a corner. Basically they advocate policies that are going to massively increase migration into the country. It is not unfair to say that the Democrats are arguing for open borders.

Why are the Democrats pushing such policies? Do they have a principle stance for the betterment of our country? I wish. It is more likely some combination of hatred of Trump and believe that new immigrants will eventually vote for them. I will not carry a drop of water for the Democrats.

I am often frustrated when the topic of immigration comes up. It is a complex issue easily reduced to sound bites. “Kids in cages.” “Build the wall.” In the past, I personally favored a comprehensive policy that strengthens the borders, but with pathways to least legalization, if not citizenship, for those here now. As for refugees I have favored spending money on judges and systems to quickly adjudicate those claims.

My inclination is to be as generous as possible, but I have not been in favor of open borders. The reason why I have not favored open borders is because we cannot handle all who would come here. Compared to most of the rest of the world, and especially those in Central and South America who have access to our border, coming to the United States would be a great economic opportunity. Immigrants are generally good for our society, but there is a limit to what we gain if too many come at the same time. Any decent economist will tell you that an influx of a lot of unskilled labor will depress the wages of other laborers. Furthermore, our social systems can only handle so many individuals.

So I have believed that there has to be a limit to our generosity. Thus, the notion of open borders, or policies that are functionally open borders, have not appealed to me. I envisioned them as impractical and unwise.

But I have begun to reconsider that stance. I still see open borders or open borderish policies as problematic to our economy and society. But perhaps that should not be the deciding factor in whether to promote a policy. What if the right thing to do is to accept that our economy will suffer from importing a great number of migrants, but we accept them anyway? Would that be the Christian thing to do?

The Bible talks a great deal about immigrants. It talks about our responsibility to welcome and take care of them. There is no limit in the Bible. Perhaps we are to welcome any who want to come. Perhaps we are to let our standard of living to be lowered so that more individuals can enjoy a higher standard of living. Their higher standard of living may mean the difference between life and death while we are giving up luxuries. Would that be the Christian thing to do?

In some ways it is easy for me to consider supporting policies that open up our borders. I am a college professor and unlikely to face occupational competition from those who come across our borders. I may have to pay a little more in taxes, but I will do okay. Those in the middle and lower class will bear much more of the burden of such polices. It is sometimes too easy for professionals to take moral stances when it is blue collar workers who pay the price.

Furthermore, there may be a level where immigration does so much damage that it harms all of us. We may be able to incorporate 10 million individuals with minimum problems. Incorporating 100 million may strain our social system so much that we all suffer greatly and those immigrating do not get the improvement they are seeking. I wish we could get the nonpartisan analysis needed to know about the effects of immigration at extremely high rates.

It is important to engage in introspection and occasionally challenge our previous ideas and convictions. But changing one’s perspective is not easy and I am not completely ready to support open border yet. Right now I have more questions than answers. But I do think this is a seed change for me as it concerns issues of immigration. Even if I do not eventually go all the way to supporting an open border policy I am certain to become even more willing to take in refugees and immigrants than I have been in the past. But for right now you can say that I am “on the fence” about our fences.

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  • I readily agree that immigration into the US is way too tortuous (no that word does NOT need an ‘r’), limited, and difficult. It should not take either decades or millions to come to the US to support yourself and become a citizen. Given how much the government limits and rations legal entry, of COURSE there’s a huge black market, with all the injustices that entails. I strongly suspect that a large part of the problem is that we just aren’t willing to spend the money needed on tracking and oversight of all the people who want to immigrate.

    On the other hand, what happens to the people whose nations are depopulated by these open-border policies, if we do in fact adopt them?

  • Alan Drake

    All ICE has to do to shut down the meat supply of the United States is to raid every meat packing plant. At least half the meatpacking employees working there today are illegal immigrants.

    No illegal immigrants -> No meat.
    No meat processing -> No corn & soybeans needed at feedlots
    No meat processing -> No need for cattle ranches, pig farms and chicken sheds

    That is the reality today, not some hypothetical.

    At the seafood processing plant that my 71 year old African-Trinidadian roommate (and Green card holder) works at, many of the higher skill positions are held by illegal immigrants.

  • Just Me

    If I were president I’d terminate all immigration from all countries until congress fixes the problem.

  • Rod Martin

    Another alternative might be to put American ingenuity into helping to improve the conditions in those countries that people are fleeing from, so that they don’t need to be so desperate to escape.

  • David Brown

    “The integration of refugees is a sign of lived Christianity.” This is a quote from a theological treatise about immigration by the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Germany. Interestingly, the name of the department in the church it comes from is called “Migration” and not “Immigration.” Considering the issue as “migration” rather than just “immigration” expands the conversation. Based on a rather extensive theological/biblical analysis (they are German, after all), the church believes migration, for lots of varied and complex reasons, is part and parcel of the human condition. That perspective does not make for easy solutions but it does shift the conversation to a more biblical center.