Broken US border fosters disrespect and is an affront to our country

When my family arrived in the United States from Cuba, my father took me and my sister aside.

“We are now guests in this country, which was generous enough to invite us in,” he said. “Act accordingly.” We got the message. Not only were we expected to abide by American laws and customs, but we were to behave with the kind of courtesy and respect one would show when visiting someone else’s home.

Many years later, I happened to watch a televised conversation between President Barack Obama and a group of young persons who called themselves “dreamers” — a term I hadn’t heard before.

Dreamers, I learned, were undocumented aliens who had been brought to the US as minors and enjoyed certain protections against deportation. On TV, they behaved nothing like guests. They were full of grievances and accusations, making insistent demands on the president. For his part, Obama sounded defensive and apologetic.

Fast-forward a decade and we observe another president, Joe Biden, offering an abject public apology for having used the words “illegal migrant” with regards to a person who entered the country in disregard of the law. That person, I note, wasted no time on courtesy or respect. He was a vicious criminal who, once inside our borders, perpetrated rape and murder. Yet he still possessed the moral authority to force the president to beg forgiveness.

Something fundamental has changed since I received my father’s admonishment.

We are a nation of immigrants. This has always been so. When I first arrived here, I was amazed to find that my best friend’s mother was Welsh and his grandfather was German. My second-best friend’s mom was a London cockney who barely spoke the English language. Everyone had family who came from somewhere else.

But what is an immigrant? I can offer a personal perspective. An immigrant, first and last, is someone who abandons his home forever and willingly becomes a stranger in a strange land.

That is a painful decision, to be made only for the most powerful of reasons: tyranny, in the case of my family, or penury, in the case of so many arrivals today.

There is heartache and loss, to be sure, but the immigrant isn’t a creature of despair. Having broken traumatically with the past, he is transported to the realm of hope and faith, a child of adventure, a full-time settler in the future.

The immigrant can’t avoid the shock of the new: new language, new culture, new climate. (I remember the thrill of watching snow fall for the first time.) Every moment poses a question about how much to preserve of the old ways. Much depends on the individual. My younger sister seemed to roll off the plane already speaking perfect English and acting totally American. I took a bit longer to figure things out.

Far more depends on the host country. Many governments today favor the Jewish ghetto approach to immigrants. Newcomers are told, in essence, “You are free to be yourselves — so long as you do it away from us.”

Huge enclaves of escapees from shattered countries, together with their children and grandchildren, have been carved out of some regions of Europe, for example, the outskirts of Paris, entire districts of Rotterdam in the Netherlands, and much of the city of Malmo, Sweden.

Backward approach

Everywhere, the old ways have been dissolved by criminality and violence — and the inhabitants are united only by their implacable hostility to the new ways of the host country. The modern ghetto manufactures nihilism.

Europe’s immigration failures highlight the brilliance of the traditional American approach.
Here, historically, immigrants have confronted a different proposition: “You can be like the Amish, you can go mainstream, or you can be anything in between. Your choice.” The way ahead is wide open.

Most of us evolve into that variable-geometry organism: the hyphenated human. To be Cuban-American is not to be one thing or the other, but to feel, very intensely, both. It’s double the fun.

Implicit in the traditional message was an invitation: work hard and do well. When the Cubans arrived in Miami during the Cold War, they were expected to become yet another success story.

The virtue or merit of being a “victim group” received literally zero consideration. Immigrants to this country graduate to citizenship in a solemn oath-taking ceremony. As at a wedding, participants are frequently moved to tears.

The oath itself lays down a heavy responsibility: the new citizen undertakes to “support and defend the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” I think that responsibility is eagerly embraced. Between the immigrant and American society, a protective bond is forged. Whenever the US is criticized, or compared unfavorably to other nations, or accused of injustice and racism, you will find immigrants, who know better, in the front ranks of the defenders.

This is the process being perverted by illegality. When you arrive in violation of “the laws of the United States of America,” you can have no relationship to the society you live in other than one of fear and lies.
As we learned during Prohibition, every system of illegal procurement, by its very nature, will be controlled, exploited, and abused by criminals. So it is with illegal immigration. Criminal “mules” transport people and drugs into the country. Criminal “influencers” broadcast information about US soft spots where benefits are greatest and easiest to obtain. In cities like San Francisco, criminal peddlers run the open-market fentanyl trade.

Exploitative situation

And make no mistake: it’s the ordinary migrant, desperate and unprotected, who suffers, sometimes unto death, at the hand of these hardened cases.

But isn’t it true — as the sign in my neighbor’s yard states — that “no human is illegal”? That question can only be answered with another: What is a country, anyway? If, as some bright minds have suggested, a country is nothing more than an “imagined community,” then we can easily imagine away questions about borders, status and legality.

But if a country is a specific territory under a single constitution and legal system, with a shared memory and a communal project for the future, then the concepts of legality and illegality are not that difficult to understand.

If your first act on arrival in the United States is to violate our immigration laws, then you are here illegally. It really is that simple. Joe Biden may find the term too offensive, even for a murderer — but my father, if he were still alive, would insist on its use, as would an untold number of immigrants to our shores who abide by the law. Yet one rarely hears from them.

The business of illegal immigration is rotten with hypocrisy. Politicians like Biden, who believe in and promote open borders, make stringent demands for perfect “equity” of American society — then allow millions into the country whose lives are controlled by necessity in a manner reminiscent of the medieval serf.

Once again, let me state the obvious: the illegal migrant is an utterly dependent soul — dependent on the criminal class, dependent on underpaying bosses, but most of all dependent on the arbitrary power and largesse of the federal government. Each of those entities benefits from lording it over the helpless peasantry. Each conspires to perpetuate this cruel and anti-democratic relationship.

So the flood of humanity keeps pouring in — the exact number is unknown but no one disputes that it’s in the millions and unprecedented in our lifetimes. Strangely enough, this disaster, at first, elicited celebration in progressive circles, because it seemed like the final defeat of Donald Trump’s restrictive policies.
Then progressive-run cities like New York and Chicago were swamped by the migrant tide.

Where should the arriving hordes be housed — and who should pay? How about health benefits and the schooling of their children? What is their status with regards to work — and should they be allowed to take jobs from local residents?

The answers have been ad hoc and inadequate. At great cost, large migrant populations, with no settled status, have been deposited inside our urban centers yet outside the framework of American life. These arrangements resemble Europe’s ghettos and are likely to breed the same kind of resentment, alienation and criminality.

Dem mismanagement

It has been a remarkable example of political stupidity for the Biden administration to open the migrant floodgates without a thought about how to manage the consequences. The blowback has been severe. Immigration has gone from a dull Republican talking point to one of the most pressing issues for the American public in the 2024 election.

Voters hold Biden responsible for the mess, and rightly so. This is nothing like a progressive triumph —– in fact, a policy more conducive to boosting Trump’s chances of a return to the White House can scarcely be imagined.

How, then, should we proceed? I believe the first step is to distinguish once again between legal and illegal migrants. It shouldn’t be easier or faster to walk over the Mexican border than to acquire legal residency.

Given our history, the approach to legal immigration should be generous both in numbers and diversity of national origin. As a country, however, we have an interest in seeing that migrants are integrated into the variegated strands of American society.

Author Reihan Salam has mustered persuasive evidence showing that educated migrants have little trouble assimilating into what he calls the “middle-class melting-pot.” The legal system should thus prioritize educated migrants, who also bring needed skills and expertise.

The goal should be to consecrate the trajectory so many of us have traditionally followed: from stranger to citizen and from indifference to loyalty and love of country. That won’t happen unless the illegal flood is halted.

Under the current mindless drift, we are importing poverty on a massive scale. Ordinary migrants suffer; so do marginalized Americans. The cohesion of Salam’s “middle-class melting-pot” is put at risk. Only the criminals and exploiters benefit.

We are busy sowing chaos and misery and are likely to reap a permanently alienated underclass for our reward.

Why on earth would we do this to ourselves?

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