No won­der we’re in trou­ble

Walker County Messenger - - Front Page - Ge­orge Reed Jr. An his­tor­i­cal per­spec­tive

It should be ob­vi­ous to any­one con­cerned with our Repub­lic’s long-term sus­tain­abil­ity that we need to com­pletely re­write our laws gov­ern­ing im­mi­grants seek­ing ad­mis­sion to our coun­try. And this is no re­cent prob­lem.

Since World War II we have fol­lowed a pol­icy of grant­ing pri­or­ity for ad­mis­sion to peo­ple flee­ing po­lit­i­cal or reli­gious per­se­cu­tion. But many of today’s im­mi­grants are not flee­ing per­se­cu­tion. They are flee­ing poverty and the lousy coun­try in which they live. But if we ac­cepted liv­ing in a lousy coun­try as a cri­te­rion for ad­mis­sion, sev­eral bil­lion of the world’s peo­ple would be el­i­gi­ble for im­me­di­ate U.S. res­i­dency.

In spite of poet Emma Lazarus’ heart-felt words en­graved near the Statue of Lib­erty, “Give me your tired, your sick, your hud­dled masses,” we have mostly wel­comed im­mi­grants when they ful­filled an eco­nomic need. With that in mind it should be ob­vi­ous that we need new laws and poli­cies gov­ern­ing im­mi­gra­tion.

Our present im­mi­gra­tion laws were en­acted un­der Pres­i­dent Rea­gan in 1968. But they have never been se­ri­ously en­forced, not even once. Why? Prob­a­bly be­cause along with ap­pre­hend­ing the il­le­gals they also pe­nal­ize em­ploy­ers who hire them. And they do­nate gen­er­ously to both par­ties. We need new laws that in­clude a man­date to en­force them, and we need them now. Why haven’t we ad­dressed this is­sue long ago? There’s enough blame here for ev­ery­one con­cerned.

At var­i­ous times both par­ties have oc­cu­pied the White House and had a con­gres­sional ma­jor­ity for at least two years of their ad­min­is­tra­tion. That was am­ple op­por­tu­nity to re­vise our im­mi­gra­tion laws if they were so com­mit­ted. Yet noth­ing has been done since 1968. Ever won­der why? I think the Democrats see im­mi­grants as fu­ture Demo­cratic vot­ers. The old north­ern big-city po­lit­i­cal ma­chines were Demo­cratic fief­doms and were closely al­lied with re­cent im­mi­grants. And the Repub­li­cans see these new ar­rivals as a coun­ter­bal­ance to Amer­i­can work­ers’ wage de­mands. And it seems to be work­ing. Real wages have been rel­a­tively stag­nant for sev­eral decades now while in­come for the wealthy elite has sky­rock­eted.

Some European na­tions have opened their bor­ders to hordes of Mid­dle Eastern refugees flee­ing atroc­i­ties from the Syria-ISIS Revo­lu­tion. But their poli­cies are not all that al­tru­is­tic. These are na­tions with aging pop­u­la­tions that are not re­pro­duc­ing at even a re­place­ment rate. They need younger work­ers to help pay for their gen­er­ous so­cial pro­grams. We, with a younger av­er­age age, do not have that prob­lem, not yet any­way. But about the mid­dle of this cen­tury the white race will no longer be a ma­jor­ity here and So­cial Se­cu­rity’s in­come will turn neg­a­tive. Is this in­tended to scare any­body? As Sara What­sher­name might say, “You betcha!”

This Novem­ber we must send peo­ple to Wash­ing­ton who are be­holden to nei­ther the cor­po­rate elite nor or­ga­nized la­bor (or what’s left of it.) They must be com­mit­ted to ad­dress­ing the im­mi­gra­tion is­sue ob­jec­tively, re­spon­si­bly and ag­gres­sively. That will re­quire vot­ers get­ting in­volved by writ­ing let­ters to their rep­re­sen­ta­tives, ask­ing pointed ques­tions of can­di­dates and, most im­por­tant of all, get­ting folks to the polls on elec­tion day. Our voter turnout in 2016 was abysmal. How many have called or writ­ten a let­ter to their con­gres­sional rep­re­sen­ta­tives in the last year? The last ten years? Ever? No won­der we’re in trou­ble.

Ge­orge B. Reed Jr., who lives in Rossville, can be reached by email at reed1600@bell­

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