The Trumpian case against supporters of a liberal immigration policy is that we are indifferent to law, blasé about crime and blind to the social costs illegal immigrants impose on American communities. How better to feed that case than to misrepresent, and then take umbrage at, the president’s tough talk on a psychotic Latin American gang?
.. The blunt truth is that immigrants have brought crime to our shores for a very long time: Decades before MS-13, there were the Dead Rabbits(Irish), Flying Dragons (Chinese), Undzer Shtik (Jewish) and, of course, the Cosa Nostra. And for just as long politicians have tried to portray immigrants as criminals, from the Know Nothings of the 1850s to the authors of the Immigration Act of 1924. Now the nativist-in-chief is also the commander-in-chief.
The intelligent answer to Trump can’t be that we have nothing to fear when it comes to immigrants, or that every attempt to enforce immigration laws or discuss immigration ills is just a thinly veiled form of xenophobia. The right answer is that, on net and over time, we have far more to gain from immigrants than we have to lose from them... Which leaves it to sensible Democrats and sane Republicans to repel and defeat the president’s demagoguery. That takes a cool-headed command of immigration facts and historical experiences. Baldly misrepresenting what the president says is the opposite of that. It’s a gift to Trump.I know it’s infuriating that the president habitually conflates illegal immigrants with violent criminals, and that he buries the signal of his bigotries in the noise of his syntax. I also suspect that the president would be just as eager to deport Latin American immigrants and build a wall with Mexico if groups like MS-13 didn’t exist... We have a president adept at goading his opponents into unwittingly doing his bidding.
Proud to Live in a Nation of Holers
Let’s not mince words: Moldova is a hole. Modify with any four letters you wish.
I mention Moldova because it’s where my paternal grandfather was born in 1901. An anti-Semitic rampage in his hometown, Kishinev, soon forced his family to leave for New York, where my great-grandfather labored as a carpenter in the Brooklyn Navy Yard for eight dollars a week. Low skills, low wages, minimal English, lots of children and probably not the best hygiene — that’s half of my pedigree. The other half consisted of refugees.
I’m not alone. America is a nation of holers. It is an improbable yet wildly successful experiment in the transformation — by means of hope, opportunity and ambition — of holers into doers, makers, thinkers and givers. Are you of Irish descent? Italian? Polish? Scottish? Chinese? Chances are, your ancestors did not get on a boat because life in the old country was placid and prosperous and grandpa owned a bank. With few exceptions, Americans are the dregs of the wine, the chaff of the wheat. If you don’t know this by now, it makes you the wax in the ear.
.. Liberals can be squeamish about calling poor countries bad names, while conservatives such as Mark Steyn chortle that “nobody voluntarily moves to Haiti.” Which, let’s be real, is basically right.
Yet that’s beside the point. We are not talking about Haiti, El Salvador, Nigeria or any other country on the president’s insult list. What counts are the people from these countries
.. But immigrants are more likely to be fleeing those dysfunctions and prejudices than they are to be bringing them
- .. Dorsa Derakhshani, the international chess master from Iran who came to the United States last year because, as she wrote in an op-ed for The Times, the mullahs “cared more about the scarf covering my hair than the brain under it.”
- Vietnamese boat people did not bring fratricidal hatreds with them to America.
- Soviet refuseniks did not bring a Soviet work ethic.
.. They don’t bring crime to cities. They drive out crime by starting businesses and families in shrinking cities or underserved neighborhoods.
.. sub-Saharan Africans have “among the highest college-completion rates of any immigrant group.”
.. As for Haitians, MPI found they had a higher labor participation rate than the overall work force, and had median household incomes of $47,200 — lower than the overall U.S. median, but robust by any developed nation standard.
.. How can this be? It shouldn’t be a mystery. Immigrants self-select.
.. To really see it clearly, you must first rise up from a hole.
Donald Trump has not, to say the least, risen from a hole. But he is sinking into one.
.. It may be that it won’t damage him politically — Republican Party leaders, increasingly unshameable, will mumble mild disapproval until the news cycle turns — but it does damage the country. We have a president even more ignorant of America than he is of the rest of the world.