USA TODAY US Edition
IMMIGRATION FAIRY AND GUN BUNNY
Both the GOP and the Democratic Party policies are tied to magical thinking
The same Republicans who express appropriate outrage over President Obama’s shameless demagoguery on gun control should reconsider their own exploitative oversimplification of the similarly tortured question of illegal immigration.
In reacting to the shootings in Oregon, the president declared: “This is a political choice that we make, to allow this to happen every few months in America.”
The implication is that mass shootings would wondrously cease if only “common sense gun regulation” became the law of the land. The evidence for this childlike belief is just about non-existent. Some of the most hideous mass murders of recent years have occurred in communities such as Newtown, Conn., or Roseburg, Ore., located in liberal states with some of the tightest gun controls in the country. With his rhetoric, Obama seems to suggest that corrupt conservatives are deliberately concealing a big, easily graspable lever secretly located somewhere on Capitol Hill that, if pulled by majorities in both houses of Congress, would easily and instantly put an end to shooting sprees on campuses. TRUMPING TRUMP Never mind that even without that magic lever, murder rates have gone down dramatically in the past quarter-century — cut in half between 1990 and 2012 — despite the lack of sweeping new regulation to limit private ownership of guns. The president seeks to demonize his opponents by suggesting that only their stubborn recalcitrance stands in the way of an immediate solution to a painful national problem that has, in fact, already seen dramatic improvement in recent decades.
Despite well-publicized recent spikes in violent crime in a few troubled communities, the best evidence suggests that overall rates of criminal violence continue to go down, even in times and places where gun ownership goes dramatically up.
While liberal demagoguery distorts the facts and offers magical thinking on the firearms debate, too many conservatives fall into the same embarrassing pattern when it comes to the issue of illegal immigration. Just as leftist true believers hope to locate that big congressional lever to put an immediate end to mass shootings, strident voices on the right promise to find the big red button under the president’s desk by which he could instantly “secure the border” and turn back the “invasion” of hordes of undocumented immigrants. The frontrunning GOP presidential candidate promises to round up and deport 11.3 million undocumented immigrants just as easily and miraculously as leftist activists pledge to control all 300 million guns in private hands.
In both cases, the cost of policing and legal initiatives to achieve these aims would run to hundreds of billions of dollars. But surely, we’re told, it would be worth the cost in tax dollars and police state tactics if only those magic buttons and levers could be pushed or pulled. PRACTICAL POLICIES Any sane or thoughtful observer should realize the process of uprooting the lives of 11.3 million human beings, the majority of whom have lived in the USA for 10 years of more, would prove no easier or constructive than a sweeping project to impose new regulations on every one of the firearms in the third of American households that possess them.
Moreover, as in the case of the supposed “rising tide” of criminal violence, the illegal immigration “tidal wave” that is characterized as a crisis is actually one of the few areas of American life that has witnessed unequivocal im- provement in recent years. According to available measures, illegal immigration — especially from Mexico — has declined significantly since the last years of the Bush administration, reflecting both a struggling U.S. economy and greatly enhanced efforts at border security. Since George W. Bush became president, spending on border patrol and apprehending unauthorized entrants has tripled. Even without the big, beautiful wall so enthusiastically envisioned by Donald Trump, the flow of illegal arrivals has declined dramatically, particularly from Mexico.
In short, Republicans should resist the temptation to approach the immigration issue with hysterical distortions that resemble Democratic tactics on the issue of gun violence.
Regarding both problems, further progress is possible and desirable, but it can never occur until all sides acknowledge the substantial improvements that have occurred and focus on practical policies instead of impossible promises, childish fantasies and simplistic non-solutions.