Immigration Reform And Racism Or Virginia Secedes: A Response


[Editor note: This article is in response to the Editor's comment from 6/11/14]

This publication has taken the position that those who disagree with "immigration reform" are racists. Articles are continually published in IMMIGRATION DAILY with this slant. This opinion is wrong for the most part but when flipped against many in the "pro-immigration" camp would be correct.

The loss of Eric Cantor should also be a wake up call to all in the immigration community that they are on the wrong track in their lobbying efforts and demands. Had we made reasonable demands years ago we would have built a better system. Instead we placed to high a bet on CIR (amnesty by another name) and lost.

The Cambridge dictionary defines the term 'racist' as "a person who believes that some races are better than others, or who acts unfairly to someone because of his or her race".

I would argue that ‘unfairly’ could mean giving special benefits because of race. It should not be limited to burdens.

The thrust of some of this thinking has been that ‘white’ Americans of a conservative bent are somehow afraid that America will no longer be a white Christian nation; that these white Americans want to keep out the 'colored' peoples. In truth there may be some to whom this applies. I don't see many. I do see many people who call themselves 'pro-immigrant' who are racist but justify their opinions on self-righteous prejudiced platforms.

At immigration conferences and events over many decades and at discussions with the immigration bar and at conservative functions and events I have gotten a very different opinion of the issues and prejudices. As a moderate on these issues I see the excesses on both sides.

The thrust of the opinions from the immigration bar is something like this: America has been a white Christian dominated community since it's founding and that this was somehow bad and that now we are on the verge of a new America where 'others' will run this country in justice. Those others of course are part of a perceived demographic shift. There seems to be an intuitive idea that America has been evil but is now on the verge of being good because of a change in demographics. This is racist thinking. This is completely wrong.

In each stage of American history there was a minority opinion that the newcomers will somehow change America. Each time it was wrong. Benjamin Franklin didn't want those people to come to the United States who refused to learn English and had a strange religion and customs. Those people were the Amish. No one would make those criticisms today.

In later years there was similar criticism about Irish and Germans, then Jews, Italians and Poles. In each and every generation these claims came and went and in each of those generations the issue of skin color was not an issue. The glaring example is the Chinese Exclusion Act. No one today would argue that that act was correct. It was the differences of the newcomers and the possibility of them not fitting in and the fear that they would change America that was the issue. Each time the newcomers came and fit in and as a result America became stronger.

Issues about race have crept into the current debate because the so-called pro-immigration camp has made it an issue. I would argue that almost everyone coming to the United States wants to be American and has come here for that reason. I would suspect that a survey of the Hispanic community would reveal that most consider themselves ‘white’ American or at least as American as anyone else. This is probably true of Asian Americans. African and Caribbean black immigrants are not coming here because they expect persecution. They just want to be American. None of these people come here with the idea that ‘American’ means ‘white’. They don't seem to think that a different skin color makes them any less American.

People vote with their feet and I don't see any Americans of any color fleeing. I do see people of all colors and religions voting with their feet to become Americans.

But: there is a large group of people here that wish to use race to divide America: not conservative Republicans as the recent editorial stated. That large group of "pro-immigration" people want to make it seem that everyone not ‘white Christian’ should somehow be aligned with this idea of supplanting the white Christian community with some other one in the name of a righteous America. These pro-immigration people constantly talks about race, ethnicity, and 'justice'. That is the community for which race is an important consideration and I would argue that that is the group that is most racist. They are racist because race is the issue that is most important to them and upon which their political decisions are made.

Even if one can argue that America has been a racist society in the past, there is significantly less of it as a pervasive problem today. We should not be a society that makes race based decisions except when correcting the sins of the past. We should strive to consistently be better. We should not let one archaic race based system be supplanted by another.

A fair and sustainable immigration system is not necessarily one that allows everyone to enter our country at his or her whim. A fair and sustainable system should have laws that are race and religion neutral and protect American workers to a reasonable extent, unite families and are sympathetic to the real hardship of many. We had that until 1986 when we passed an amnesty that led ten years later to a draconian turn of events.

It seems to me that whenever I discuss these issues with business leaders and Republican and conservative types the discussion never gets to race, religion or national origin. It does get to the exchange of international personnel in an increasingly international world. It does get to sustainable laws that make sense and that do not have to be changed every few years. It does get to the idea that the door should be open a reasonable amount for those that want to join the American polity but that control of our borders and who enters and why is a valid governmental responsibility. It always gets to the idea of what is good for America.

The concentration on the race ‘issue’ on one side and the lack of it on the other is an indication of who is racist and who is not. One side sees America as America and the other as something else. This tells much.

Eric Cantor's defeat does change the playing field in the area of immigration reform. We are now going to find a voting population that increasingly requires intelligent detailed discussions about what needs to be done and why. This is reasonable. It is no longer enough to call the other side "racist" or talk about an increasingly international economy. Our elected officials will no longer parrot what the ‘pro-immigration’ group wants to hear (and often do nothing more than talk). Each and every elected official will now know that there are three sides to this issue. In addition to the ‘pro-immigrationists’ there are some anti-alien voters such as the members of FAIR, but there is a very large group of Americans who want to know why these changes are good for America: a moderate group. I am one of these voters.

We should be thinking about questions such as why countries such as Japan and China that strictly limit immigration do so well in the international economic community. Why should we be more generous about our immigration polices than the countries from which we take people? Isn’t reciprocity a valid concept in international law? Why did the so called ‘pro-immigrationists do absolutely nothing for two years when they had full control of the house, senate and the oval office?

Most of all we need good and realistic explanations why these immigration measures are good for the United States. Why will these new Americans benefit Americans already here? Why are more foreign workers not displacing American ones? Why there are not already sufficient opportunities within the existing immigration and visa system to allow skilled workers and entrepreneurs to come to the United States? If we restrict high skilled work visas are we encouraging United States companies to do business elsewhere?

I consider myself a moderate on the area of immigration reform. I believe an amnesty whatever it is called will lead to another 20 million illegals entering the United States. At the same time I do not want mass deportations. I do want intelligent sustainable laws that will benefit our great country. We can do this intelligently.

The ‘pro-immigration’ community has been deluding itself for many years, giving itself the arguments it wants to hear, an argument that often falls on the deaf ears of those Americans who have been here even for less than one generation. The ‘pro-immigration’ community has become a mutual admiration society. They revel in telling each other how good they are and how bad the others are without ever understanding that there can be valid positions other than their own. This is an indication of closed minds.

In any scientific inquiry all sides are considered and weighed in an effort to find a correct solution. In an increasingly polarized America the ‘pro-immigration’ camp has excluded those ideas that are not politically correct by their standards.

These people think automatically on this subject. Let them stay, they argue. That position makes them feel good and then no further inquiry is necessary. Others say wait: let's break the issue down to bite size pieces and see what needs fixing and what needs changing and what needs enforcing and who we will dispense special kindness on. What is good for America? This is a more difficult position to take and requires thought and study. The extra thought, the extra work, the extra care will be worth it. It may be too complex for the sound bites that people increasingly make their decisions on but only with an intelligent handling of this subject will we be able to do what's best for America.

Reprinted with permission.

About The Author

Harry DeMell

Harry DeMell has been practicing law in the areas of visa, immigration and nationality since 1977. He is a graduate of New York Law School.
Mr. DeMell is an active member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA). He has been a member of the AILA's annual planning committee, participated in their lobbying efforts, and is a mentor to other members.
Mr. DeMell has also chaired committees for the Nassau County Bar Association and the Brooklyn Bar Association. He is a frequent speaker and a writer on important visa and immigration issues.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.