LEO MORRIS COLUMN: Legal immigration is political anathema
Indiana Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly is a brave politician who went against his party to support President Donald Trump’s demands for billions of dollars to build a border wall. So says one of his campaign ads.
No, no, no, insist attack ads aimed against him. Donnelly supported amnesty for millions of illegal immigrants and has waffled on the wall.
Well, goodness. You suppose illegal immigration might be an important issue in Indiana?
Indeed, it is, and in all 49 of the other states, including ones the farthest away from an international border. In fact, of all the issues that propelled Trump to the presidency, illegal immigration is the one that resonated most with the disaffected voters who flocked to him. They heard and responded to the simple message no other presidential candidate was sending to them: “I hear you.”
All the politicians and pundits — just about everybody but Trump – completely missed the depth of anger in the country over the issue, anger that had been building to a simmering rage over decades of deliberate inaction by politicians of both parties, including presidents and presidential candidates.
The perfect example of political incompetence came with the grand bargain reached during the Reagan presidency. There would be amnesty for the few million illegals already here, and an ironclad guarantee of border security that would prevent the problem from growing.
Of course, the amnesty happened and the security didn’t, so now we have (estimates vary) something like 11 or 12 million illegals to deal with, and all the politicians have to offer is the same old amnesty versus security song-and-dance they’ve always tried to placate us with.
And they keep telling us the same despicable lie over and over: The system is broken.
The truth is that “the system” has never been broken. There are explicit rules against entering this country improperly and sufficient penalties for those who break the rules. The only thing that has been broken is the political will to honor the rules and enforce the penalties.
The lie has fueled the rage. If politicians ignore their own rules and make up new ones as they go along, telling people who complain about it that they themselves are the problem and must cease their racist, xenophobic ways, nobody should be surprised if those people get a little testy. If our cultural elite keep preaching about our “nation of immigrants” and suppose nobody will notice they’re conflating illegal immigration and legal immigration, they deserve nothing but scorn.
But the lie continues. It’s clear nobody wants to tackle the issue seriously. Republicans won’t do anything that would seem like forgiveness for those who broke the law to get here, and Democrats won’t do anything that seriously impedes the flow of people crossing our border.
The experts say (what would we do without experts?) that this impasse is the result of the coming midterm election and both parties’ need to keep their bases happy. But most of us realize it’s the same old impasse, and that it will just keep going on.
Until it doesn’t. As someone once remarked (surely a genius), things will keep going on the way they’ve been going until they no longer can.
Voters motivated by anger will keep putting some politicians in office and yanking others out until enough of them realize that they’re being jerked around by the entire political class, which has created a monumental problem that’s insoluble because nobody wants to solve it.
What happens then is anybody’s guess, but I’d put my money on an “Atlas Shrugged” moment, though I suspect it won’t happen in quite the way Ayn Rand envisioned it.
In the meantime, our legal immigration system — yes, there is such a thing, though that’s one issue the politicians really, really don’t want to talk about — is something of an incoherent mess.
The problem-avoiders on the right like to say that if we don’t have an enforced border, we don’t really have a country.
That’s only true as far as it goes. If we don’t have a rational method of integrating newcomers and their baggage into our existing culture, we might have a country, but it’s one we can’t even define, let alone enrich and defend.
Leo Morris, columnist for The Indiana Policy Review, is this year’s winner of the Hoosier Press Association’s award for Best Editorial Writer. Morris, as opinion editor of the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel, was named a finalist in editorial writing by the Pulitzer Prize committee. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.