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Immigration: The Problems, the Positions, and the Proposals, Part One

June 29, 2016 by Herbert Daughtry

On June 23, 2016, the Supreme Court ended in a 4:4 tie regarding President Barack Obama’s signature program for assisting illegal or undocumented immigrants in the USA. The inability of the Court to decide means that the issue will be sent back to the lower courts. The lower courts had decided that President Obama overstepped his authority.

2013: A Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill was passed in the Senate, but the Republican-led House of Representatives, under the leadership of the then Speaker of the House, John Boehner, refused to bring it to a vote.

November 2014: The President tried to expand the Deferred Act which would have provided protection for 4 million undocumented immigrants from deportation and make them eligible for a work permit.

June 2015: The President announced an immigration plan after Congress refused to pass the Dream Act. This legislation would have provided a pathway to citizenship for undocumented youth.

In a press conference following the Supreme Court’s decision, a dejected President Obama lamented the Court’s decision. He pointed out that the unwillingness of the Congress to entertain his appointments to the Supreme Court, which seat has been vacant since February when Judge Antonin Scalia died, had rendered the court incapable of making a decision. He said that the Republican-led Congress’ refusal to act and the Supreme Court’s deadlock meant a continuation of “kicking the can down the road.”

It should be pointed out, however, that those, who qualify under the original Deferred Act for their children, continue in that status and can seek extension. Mr. Obama emphasized at the Press Conference that he retained the authority over deportation priorities, meaning the decision of the lower courts will not result in accelerating harassment of law-abiding undocumented people.

We can anticipate in the days ahead, advocates for both sides intensifying their efforts with increased rancor and hostility. What is the answer? Since I am not one to stand on the sidelines, particularly when so much is at stake, I will enter the controversy, and make my suggestions. Before I do, let me state my position globally. I believe what the Bible teaches us: “The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.” The earth doesn’t belong to anyone or any nation. By virtue of our being children of the Creator, all of us are entitled to rights and privileges, and to live wherever we choose, but respecting the rights of others, including nations.

Understandably, there must be laws to protect the rights of all concerned. Therein, lies the problem. Which laws can be enacted to protect the God-given right of mobility, and at the same time, the right of nations to protect its citizens?

In my ideal, priority should go to making life livable for all, adopting the United States Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” Now, if this entails sharing with others who are less fortunate, and even if it means “less for us,” so be it! Let us open our hearts, hands, and borders to all, but there should be a well-conceived plan that doesn’t destroy the good that we intend to do. I recall a quote from Andrew Carnegie, America’s steelmaker. He said, “I plan to give away all of my money, but I have to figure out how to do it with the least amount of harm.”

Ideally, the question is: “How to be charitable to the benefit of the giver and the receiver?” When it is stated that there may be a mistake in doing good, I believe our response should be, “Yes, if we have a choice between doing good that may be harmful, or not doing good at all, we should rather err on the side of doing good.”

I have another point before I put forth my suggestions. Let’s try to understand what those who have different positions are saying and feeling. Those who adopt an extreme opposition to immigration say, “Round up illegal immigrants, including children and parents, with no path to citizenship or work permits. Block the borders by any means necessary.” What are they really saying and feeling?

I don’t believe – I don’t want to believe – that most people are opposed to legal immigration. After all, they remember that their parents were immigrants. This does not apply to African-Americans. Originally, we didn’t come driven by desires for freedom. We were brought here against our will in slave ships. As Malcolm X used to say, “We didn’t land on Plymouth Rock; Plymouth Rock landed on us.” (The reader will note that it’s hard for me to write in the third person where people of African Ancestry are concerned.)

Their arguments (which they have been arguing for a long time, even before the issue of terrorism was added to the argument) has to do with quality of life; personal encroachments; drastic changes; the power equation; preferential treatments; jobs, construction, contractual, and business opportunities; etc. For example, we are informed every day that our economic situation in the USA is precarious. Too many Americans are out of work. Jobs and corporations are moving overseas. However, in this situation of uncertainty, people are still constantly coming into the country – legally and illegally – to live and share what we admit, under the present economic system and provisions, we don’t have enough for the American people, and even immigrants who are legally here.

Businesses are owned by foreigners at the neighborhood levels as well as huge industries and corporations. (God only knows the extent of foreign ownership of American businesses.) We are told that America owes China over $1.2 trillion. Foreign businesses, with the support of families, and sometimes the government, only hire family members. When I was a youth, the owner of businesses would hire people, particularly the youth, from the neighborhood. Thus, creating opportunities for training, jobs, and re-investment into the community. Increasingly, jobs require bilingualism, which means longtime citizens who speak only English are at a disadvantage. Immigrants, who are proficient in their native tongues, and enjoy intelligible English, are preferred.

I’ve heard these complaints in several cities. Numerous menial and major construction opportunities, which used to allow neighborhood construction companies or “fix-it” men and women to earn a few dollars, have been taken over by recent immigrants who will do the work much cheaper. Likewise, it’s the same for jobs. In many cities, they congregate on street corners, or under the shelter of buildings, waiting to be picked up by businesses who will pay much cheaper rates than American citizens.

Some neighborhoods have been overrun by an influx of immigrants who invite families to crowd into space or housing intended for less inhabitants; thus, creating deterioration and value reduction. Additionally, with them comes poverty and cultural differences. It must be said, in many instances, they have contributed to the revitalization of neighborhoods.

Then, we are told, or witness, the power of immigrants. Those who were here for only a generation or less managed to gain not only economic security and wealth, but also political power. We are told that even the elections of presidents, governors, and mayors swing on their votes; thus, the feeling of powerlessness. For American citizens to get their concerns and voices heard, it’s like crying in the wilderness.

… to be continued.