Appearing on Fox News Sunday, conservative columnist George Will blew off the Unaccompanied Alien Child border crisis – there’s no better way to describe his dismissive attitude – by saying something about how many counties there are in the United States, and if they’d just take twenty of these teddy-bear-clutching moppets apiece, the whole problem would disappear.
It gives me no pleasure to say that what Will says here is either nonsensical, irrelevant, or objectively wrong. For one thing, the number of Unaccompanied Alien Children surging across the border is growing to staggering proportions… and if we were to formally “welcome” them, the floodgates would blast open, making what we’ve seen so far look like a warm-up act.
There is no chance they’ll be neatly apportioned on a per-county basis, and it’s frankly insulting to our intelligence to express the figures on a “per county” basis – but even if it did work that way, the figure certainly would not remain 20 Unaccompanied Alien Children per county for long. Do we really need more painful lessons in how the flow of illegal immigrants is directly affected by the perceived weakness of U.S. border security and immigration policy?
They’re not all eight-year-olds clutching teddy bears, either, and I hate to be this rough on George Will, but I am comfortably certain he knows it… which means he’s being deliberately disingenuous with this attempt to dismiss a problem he’d rather not face head-on. How many teenage gang members should each county in the United States be given? What about the flood of adults coming across the border with these Unaccompanied Alien Children? What happens when we are, inevitably, told that we must allow the parents of the Unaccompanied Alien Children to join them? How could it possibly be considered humane to say, modifying Will’s suggestion: “Welcome to America, now go to school, get a job, and get used to never seeing your parents again?”
It’s a common trick of the amnesty lobby to deliberately conflate legal with illegal immigrants, portray adults as children, and wave off the security concerns of open-borders immigration policies. Could the United States “assimilate” sixty, eighty, or a hundred thousand eight-year-old children? Sure. But that’s not the situation we’re facing at the moment. Nor is the wave of Unaccompanied Alien Children occurring in a vacuum. To make Will’s point valid, we would have to limit all U.S. immigration, legal and otherwise, to just the flow of UACs we’re receiving from Central America over the next couple of years. Everybody else, forget about it. Could we then assimilate that youthful population, after weeding out the gang members? I’m sure we could. But that deal isn’t going to be on the table, is it?
In fact, no “deal” is on the table with respect to the American people and their voluntary consent. This whole thing is getting rammed down our throats as a fait accompli. It would be lovely if our government had approached us a couple of years ago, when (as the Washington Post has been vigorously reminding us) the Obama Administration was first warned about the incoming wave of “migrants.” It would be nice if the generous American people had been told of these reputedly war-like conditions ravaging Central America, and asked if we would be willing to take on hundreds of thousands of “refugees.”
But this crisis was forced upon us, without debate. It is not heartless, cruel, or xenophobic of the American people to react badly when foreign populations, in concert with opportunistic domestic politicians, assert the right to rewrite our immigration laws. (For another taste of that attitude, the Washington Times reports that “illegal immigrants plan to picket the White House Monday afternoon, calling on fellow immigrant-rights advocacy groups to refuse to meet with the Obama administration until President Obama specifically includes illegal immigrants in any future meetings.”)
There is nothing unacceptably nativist about the legal citizens of the United States asserting the right to control the borders of their own nation. Foreigners can certainly make polite requests for our indulgence, and we have a proud history of responding to such requests, but they have no seat at the decision-making table. At least, they shouldn’t. But increasingly, it’s the citizens of America who are told they have no seat at the table – no political presence, or even moral standing, to place any limits on how many people are allowed to cross the border.
For the moment, geography is the only practical limit. But what would George Will say if everyone from the truly war-torn and horrific corners of the globe loaded their children into boats and sent them here? Do we have to take them all, or at least everyone eight years old and under? Is there any theoretical limit to our compulsory hospitality? If there is – let’s say we draw the line at a million Unaccompanied Alien Children per year – then we’re arguing about matters of degree, not absolute principles. One of the White House’s new brainstorms involves opening up “refugee” centers in the worst Central American nations and providing safe transportation for a couple thousand minor children each year. Do the American people have the moral standing to say, “Okay, 2,000 a year is acceptable, and we’ll even go get them, to avoid the humanitarian horrors of the coyote railroad… but that’s it, no more than 2,000 a year?” Or would that get us sneered at?
Where did this notion that the American border is a low-priority contrivance – to be abandoned in the face of any compelling demand from those capable of walking across it – come from? No other nation in the world views its territorial integrity that way. If we are willing to stipulate that foreign crises trump our immigration system, then we don’t really have a border, or an immigration system. We have a series of elaborate pretenses that some people are forced to put up with, while others get waved right through. We have, not a border, but an inconvenience to migratory populations, and we’re just arguing about how severe the inconvenience should be. We have, not laws and principles, but a bluff that isn’t terribly difficult to call.
Will compares the current situation to previous waves of immigration rolling through Ellis Island, the “wretched refuse of your teeming shores” – a pertinent reminder that it is possible we’ll be seeing further “refugees” arriving by boat, should we throw our borders open. I hate to sound cynical here, but the simple truth is that America 2014 is not the same country it once was. The machinery of assimilation has been largely disabled, quite deliberately. Employment, the most universally effective instrument of assimilation, is in terrible shape, with little chance of improving any time soon. Telling a wave of alien children to go to school and get a job is not very helpful if there aren’t any jobs for them to get, or if their jobs come at the expense of American children.
For that matter, our hideously expensive education system is not performing very well, and education bureaucrats persistently blame their failures on three factors: insufficient funding, overcrowded classrooms, and a home life that doesn’t do enough to pick up where classrooms leave off. What chances do hundreds of thousands of alien children separated from their parents have to prosper in that environment? Are we then going to pile six figures of college loan debt on their backs, and thrust them into a tight job market with a shrunken workforce? No doubt that’s better than what they’re fleeing, but it’s not better for us, the legal citizens of the designated host country.
I’d love to live in an America with a surging economy and a seller’s market in labor, presided over by a thrifty and honest government, which could easily assimilate a large number of new arrivals. I don’t live in that country, and it’s foolish to pretend it’s going to get dramatically better any time soon. The only way we can possibly hope to make it better is by emphasizing the duties and responsibilities of citizenship, trimming our bloated government down to size, and asserting the importance of the rule of law. None of those tasks would be made easier by accepting migratory waves into our economic and political systems.
And even if the job is done and we do restore a vibrant economy and civil society, we still have the legal and moral right to decide what our immigration policies will be. If the people of that future America make an informed, honest decision to open the borders, so be it. What we’re seeing in today’s border crisis is the furthest thing from an “informed and honest decision” imaginable.