Saturday, July 11, 2015

Solving Illegal Immigration

Thinking deeply about a topic seems to be a forgotten art, especially when immigrants are the subject.  Consider Donald Trump, with his pernicious and thoughtless comments about Mexican immigrants.  Apparently, his accusation that Mexicans are mostly rapists and murderers has struck a chord with a lot of people.  As a result, Trump is now a Republican frontrunner in the presidential nominee sweepstakes.

He also ignited commentary on social media.  For example, a friend chimed in on Facebook with the information that someone illegally crossing in North Korea got 12 years at hard labor while trespassers in Afghanistan get shot while two Americans were awarded eight years in prison for entering Iran illegally.

Somehow, she thought that compared with what happens when people slip into the United States, where they are entitled to benefits.

That works only if logic isn’t part of the equation.  Just because Trump doesn’t use any doesn’t mean someone shouldn’t. 

For starters, not many people are trying to get into Afghanistan, North Korea or Iran.  The one or two a year who make that mistake then are easy to detect and arrest.  Those countries are at war, either with neighbors or internally.  They are on vigil for infiltrators.  They also have relatively small borders.

Good luck telling the U.S. from Canada
The United States is completely different.  We have millions of people who want to come here annually, legally or otherwise.  Our borders stretch thousands of miles in the north and in the south with two friendly neighbors.  Mexico may dislike Trump, but has no problem with the rest of us.  Canada is probably our closest ally.

There is physically no way at present to patrol those borders.  That’s why crossings are guarded only at key points.  For example, anyone so inclined can easily journey into Canada with no problems at all.  Many people do: hunters in the wilds of northern Montana, for example, are known to go back and forth simply because no signs mark the border.  That’s true along many of our northern states along the Canadian border. 

Canadian border
Of course, not that many Canadians want to sidle across our border surreptitiously or otherwise, not after comparing our mangled medical system to theirs.  The last statistics I could find placed the number at 800,000 or about 2 percent of all immigrants.  We don’t mind them anyway.  They speak English, and typically enjoy higher incomes, still use their Canadian health insurance, and often have college degrees. They are also mostly white, Anglo-Saxon Protestants, our favorite kind of newcomer.

On the other hand, Mexicans represent more than 28 percent of our immigrant population and typically have less education, are poor and don’t speak English.  Without giving them the same benefits all immigrants receive, we’d all be treated to the spectacle of poor people needing health care simply dying on our streets.  I’m not that heartless.

U.S.-Mexican border
On top of that, the Mexican border stretches more than 1,900 miles.  At least 350 million people cross between the two countries annually, making it the busiest transit locale in the world.   To accommodate those people, there are 45 checkpoints in 330 different areas.  That’s it.

There’s no way to nab every Mexican who wants to move here.  The cost of creating a fence along all those miles or guarding every inch would be overwhelming.  Our government began to build such a barrier, but gave up when the logistics showed that the concept was absurd.

Comparing that situation with any other country in the world, not just such undesirable destinations like Iran, Afghanistan and North Korea, is obviously just as ridiculous.

Then consider that we are not like those countries anyway.  We don’t have a dictator like Kim Jung-un in North Korea, who is letting his people starve so he can stuff his military.  We don’t have a “leader”as in Iran who must be the highest-ranking cleric, according to that country’s constitution,  nor a feeble president of a propped-up government like the one in Afghanistan, which has opponents inside the country and outside it.

In fact, for most of our history, we had open borders and encouraged people to come here.  My Facebook friend is the daughter of refugees who came here after World War II.  I’m the grandson of a Polish immigrant; the great-grandson of a Russian immigrant on one side, German immigrants on the other.  No one in this country can avoid such ethnic backgrounds, including Native Americans, whose origins are in Asia.

Statue of Liberty with New York
To emphasize that reality, the Statue of Liberty in New York harbor contains a poem that invited my ancestors to move here, as it did people from all lands.  It is still there, advertising the United States our founders envisioned.  We have the “golden door,” as noted in the poem, that still opens to the “tempest-tossed” of the world.

However, the issue of illegal immigration can’t be ignored.   I’m not dismissing it lightly or suggesting that we drop all laws.  That would be as outlandish as comparing this country to some of the most despotic nations on Earth.

However, there is no easy answer.  We want people to move here, just not illegally.  In fact, even after immigration laws went into effect, American business owners encouraged Mexican immigrants to slip across the border to pick crops and do the other kinds of disagreeable labor that Americans shun.  An estimated 16 to 19 million people may have taken the initiative and are still here.

Any of their children born in this country are legally Americans.  They can’t be deported.
Attempts to deport the rest would overwhelm state and Federal budgets and undermine the economy.  Separating illegal immigrants from legal residents would take years anyway.

Illegal immigration needs to be handled by responsible authorities who can look at the big picture.

In a simple-minded world, someone like Donald Trump would be king.  Reality, however, calls for thoughtful investigation that probes into all the ramifications and develops the best answer. Simplistic and false comparisons don’t help anyone achieve that goal.

Long-time religious historian Bill Lazarus regularly writes about religion and religious history.  He also speaks at various religious organizations throughout Florida.  You can reach him at  He is the author of the famed Unauthorized Biography of Nostradamus; The Last Testament of Simon Peter; The Gospel Truth: Where Did the Gospel Writers Get Their Information; Noel: The Lore and Tradition of Christmas Carols; and Dummies Guide to Comparative Religion.  His books are available on, Kindle, bookstores and via various publishers.  He can also be followed on Twitter.

You can enroll in his on-line class, Comparative Religion for Dummies, at

No comments:

Post a Comment