The news http://nyti.ms/KrX6hO of this past Friday that the U.S. will no longer deport some illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. as children is long overdue as far as I am concerned. The new policy will apply to people who are currently no more than thirty years old, who arrived in the U.S, before they turned 16, and have lived in the U.S. for five years. They also must not have a criminal record AND have earned a high school diploma, be in school or have served in the military.
While it can be argued that parents of these children who came to the U.S. ‘illegally’ are the problem, (there are many Americans who feel these parents should be deported) the children that are caught in between present a troubling problem. This change in policy attempts to address that problem. You may or may not agree.
Whenever a U.S. President uses the power of an executive order to push an agenda or directive those opposed will cite an abuse of that power. I expect this situation to be no different. What concerns me most is the message the U.S. sends the rest of the world when taking the position that Americas is not as willing to open its doors as it has been in the past. I understand that people will point out that it is illegal immigration that is the problem. It is argued that illegal immigrants (in recent years mostly from Mexico) take jobs away from legal U.S. residents (and immigrants) use resources that they do not pay for (no taxes) and put even more pressure on the U.S. healthcare system.
Those arguments are not without any merit. Yet I hope those that make that argument are not advocating a semi-closed door policy when it comes to immigration. There’s no easy answer here but a critical aspect of what made the U.S. the world leader since the founding of the country has been a willingness to accept people from all nations. Are limits to immigration still valid? I feel that’s a debatable point. These days it’s not clear that coming to the U.S. is tantamount to quickly (or ever) achieving the American dream.
Open immigration (or relatively open) is a very American concept. Over the years it has provided the U.S. with amazing contributions from amazing people who left their home country in order to come to the U.S. to live, work and study without fear of persecution. Have people forgotten the phrase ‘Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free…’ from the Emma Lazarus sonnet ‘The New Colossus’ which is found on a plaque in the Statue of Liberty exhibit and has been there since 1903.
I’ve always felt a certain pride in the idea that people from other countries look to the U.S. as a highly desirable country, a country that accepts people unquestionably from all parts of the globe. One of my favorite (now old) movies Stripes (1981) with Bill Murray’s character trying to rouse the soldiers in his unit noting that as Americans and soldiers “We’re all very different people. We’re not Watusi. We’re not Spartans. We’re Americans with a capital ‘A’. You know what that means? That means our forefathers were kicked out of every decent country in the world. We are the wretched refuse. We’re the underdog. We’re mutts.” The URL for the speech is here – http://bit.ly/MEMhV8
I love that scene and even if it is totally over the top the sentiment is in the right place as far as I am concerned. Having an open immigration policy is not always easy but it continues to separate the United States from virtually every other country on the planet. I think it makes us better as a country and is a big reason the U.S. is still a special place. I’m not ready to give that idea up – are you?