Lu­natic fringes drown out pos­si­bil­ity of fix­ing im­mi­gra­tion

Chicago Sun-Times - - OPINION - BY GE­ORGIE ANNE GEYER Ge­orgie Anne Geyer has been a for­eign cor­re­spon­dent and com­men­ta­tor on in­ter­na­tional af­fairs for more than 40 years.

More than 30 years ago, I be­gan go­ing down to the U.S.-Mex­ico bor­der on a reg­u­lar ba­sis. I was a cor­re­spon­dent cov­er­ing Latin Amer­ica, and I knew, ap­pre­ci­ated and loved the unique beauty of its un­du­lat­ing rivers and moun­tains, and of its peo­ples, who then seemed to have cre­ated along the now-trau­ma­tized bor­der a kind of nat­u­rally or­dered lit­tle state of their own.

There, Mex­i­cans and Amer­i­cans mixed with a pleas­ant con­ge­nial­ity, in great part be­cause em­i­gra­tion from “El Sur” to “El Norte” was small, un­threat­en­ing and man­age­able. But even then, there were warn­ings.

The pop­u­la­tions of tiny Cen­tral Amer­i­can states would soon burst, with­out ra­tio­nal lead­er­ship. Speak­ing with El Sal­vador’s anti-birth con­trol Arch­bishop Fernando Saenz La­calle in San Sal­vador, I asked about how the coun­try’s un­con­trolled birth rate was feed­ing the bit­ter wars of the 1980s. He sim­ply smiled and told me smugly, “Bel­gium is smaller than Sal­vador, and it has far more peo­ple.”

Sal­vado­rans, as Bel­gians?

Thus, when I spoke in 1983 at the Cal­i­for­nia Sem­i­nar on In­ter­na­tional Se­cu­rity and For­eign Pol­icy in Los An­ge­les, I found my­self pre­dict­ing that “the threat present in Cen­tral Amer­ica, which was not present in Viet­nam, is the threat to the ter­ri­to­rial in­tegrity of the United States. … It could cause a flow of im­mi­grants to the United States and fur­ther frag­men­ta­tion in the Amer­i­can so­ci­ety.”

And now, as the “car­a­vans” of thou­sands of those same Cen­tral Amer­i­cans push north, we must ask again whether there is any real hope for change in Amer­i­can pol­icy that could de­velop these coun­tries and keep their peo­ple at home. Why is it not pos­si­ble, at the same time, to ham­mer out the lon­gawaited com­pre­hen­sive im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy that would re­place all the rant­ing and rav­ing with rea­son and mod­er­a­tion?

First, we have the on­go­ing dom­i­na­tion of Trumpian “poli­cies”: send­ing in ex­cess of 5,000 troops to con­trol the bor­der, ef­fec­tively il­le­gally em­ploy­ing the mil­i­tary for par­ti­san pur­poses; di­vid­ing par­ents and chil­dren in scenes that shocked the world; ly­ing about the true na­ture of the “car­a­vans” and the en­tire im­mi­gra­tion pic­ture it­self.

From these com­plaints, you may well as­cer­tain that I em­brace the poli­cies di­a­met­ri­cally op­posed to the pres­i­dent’s, but you would be wrong. The other ex­treme — the “open borders” of the far left and many Democrats — is just as ir­ra­tional and just as dem­a­gog­i­cally dan­ger­ous as the cruel Trumpian.

This left knows only one word: “racist.” That is what you are, with­out mercy, should you fool­ishly choose to dis­agree with them. This left es­chews any idea that Amer­i­can prin­ci­ples of cul­ture and polity are su­pe­rior or wor­thy of pre­serv­ing.

For years, 85 per­cent or more of the Amer­i­can peo­ple have wanted rea­son­able im­mi­gra­tion re­form. But their strug­gle is be­ing stran­gled by these two ex­tremes; com­mon sense is con­stantly out-shouted by these two lu­natic fringes.

Some peo­ple ARE think­ing, and thank God! Vic­tor Davis Han­son, a clas­si­cist and his­to­rian at the Hoover In­sti­tu­tion at Stan­ford Univer­sity and a re­spected and bal­anced scholar, wrote in the Wash­ing­ton Times re­cently words that ef­fec­tively say it all:

“If the bor­der was se­cure, im­mi­gra­tion laws en­forced and il­le­gal res­i­dence phased out, de­ter­rence would be re-es­tab­lished and there would likely be no car­a­van.”

William A. Gal­ston of the Brook­ings In­sti­tu­tion, an­other highly re­spected mid­dle-ground thinker, wrote in The Wall Street Jour­nal of the deeper ques­tions in the im­mi­gra­tion de­bate: “Na­tional gov­ern­ments are not re­quired to value the cit­i­zens of other coun­tries as highly as their own. A de­gree of self-pref­er­ence is morally jus­ti­fied and po­lit­i­cally es­sen­tial.”

The Cen­ter for Im­mi­gra­tion Stud­ies just re­leased a re­port say­ing the Cen­tral Amer­i­can im­mi­grant pop­u­la­tion has in­creased 28-fold since 1970. In the months to come, and long af­ter this elec­tion, the bor­der will be­come an ever more pro­found prob­lem. It will call for poli­cies re­quir­ing cau­tion, fair­ness, tough­ness, mercy, a sense of pro­por­tion and mod­er­a­tion, and a re­spect for the su­pe­rior his­tor­i­cal role of Amer­i­can cul­ture.

Where will this lead­er­ship come from? Can rea­son ever over­come the tirades? Can one some­how si­lence the ranters?

FOR YEARS, 85 PER­CENT OR MORE OF THE AMER­I­CAN PEO­PLE HAVE WANTED REA­SON­ABLE IM­MI­GRA­TION RE­FORM. BUT THEIR STRUG­GLE IS BE­ING STRAN­GLED BY THESE TWO EX­TREMES; COM­MON SENSE IS CON­STANTLY OUTSHOUTED BY THESE TWO LU­NATIC FRINGES.

AL­FREDO ESTRELLA/AFP/GETTY IM­AGES

A group of Cen­tral Amer­i­can mi­grants head­ing in a car­a­van to the U.S. march Thurs­day to­ward the United Na­tions High Com­mis­sioner for Refugees head­quar­ters in Mex­ico City.

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