Immigration: Paradox immersed in ambiguity
Since becoming a nation our policies toward immigration have hardly been straightforward.
We have the world’s greatest melting pot story, but we have also enslaved Africans and slaughtered and dispossessed Native Americans through our own unique form of ethnic cleansing. We slaughtered them, took their land and banished those who were left to reservations.
We have also at various times discriminated against Irish, Italians, Germans, Chinese, Jews and other foreigners, particularly if they happened to be dark-skinned, Jewish or Catholic. And a few times we have grudgingly accepted immigrants, but only when we needed them. And, surprisingly, the latest generations of immigrants are not always enthusiastic about welcoming the next wave either. We humans are like that.
Donald Trump tells us we have lost control of our borders, as if we ever had any real control. The one of which he speaks, of course, is our southern border with Mexico. This border has always been somewhat porous ever since we annexed over a third of Mexico’s territory following the Mexican War. But these immigrants, just as illegal drugs, wouldn’t be coming here if there weren’t a demand for them. The crops in the West, Southwest and Florida would go unharvested were it not for low-wage migrant workers, mostly illegal.
Locally people have been concerned about the wholesale influx of Mexicans to the Dalton area. At times the Dalton public school enrollment has been half Hispanic or more. And names on the local police blotter like Brown, Hatfield and Smith now include Gonzalez, Martinez and Lopez. But were it not for these illegals the carpet industry might have long since fled the Dalton area for off-shore lowwage/low-tax havens. And they are generally taking jobs few Americans would accept anyway.
During the 2016 campaign Donald Trump convinced southerners and northern blue-collar workers that job losses and high crime rates were the result of the Democrats’ free-trade and liberal immigration policies. He was not only dead wrong, he was flat-out lying. But how does Trump get by with telling such whoppers? He must be confident his supporters will not bother to check the facts. And they apparently don’t.
Do immigrants actually bring more violent crime to this country? Contrary to Trump’s claims, immigrants commit far fewer crimes of all types than native-born Americans. According to a 2015 report by the American Immigration Council, while the U.S. population grew more than 5% over the past 25 years, violent crime of most types dropped dramatically. While our foreign-born population grew from 7.9% in 1990 to 13.1% in 2013, FBI records reveal that violent crime (assault, rape, armed robbery etc.) actually dropped by a whopping 48%. Today’s incarceration rates for immigrant males between 18-39 years are 1.8% compared to 3.3% for native-born offenders. These statistics were gathered from California court and prison records, the state with the largest nonwhite immigrant population. Using these numbers and applying Trump-style logic (a contradiction in terms if one ever existed), to further lower the crime rate maybe we should open the flood gates to wholesale immigration.
George B. Reed Jr., who lives in Rossville, can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.