A National Referendum on Immigration. America Needs One Now.

The NY Times, in an article dated 11/22/18  https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/22/world/europe/hillary-clinton-migration-populism-europe.html

reports on a recent interview The Guardian did on Hillary Clinton. She spoke of Europe needing to get a handle on immigration because that is what lit the flame. Responses from the left were critical, while one leader from a far right Italian party stated, “Maybe Hillary has understood the lesson.”

The European Union has had a rough time dealing with the large number of refugees from Syria, the Middle East and Africa. Merkel in Germany was a strong advocate for welcoming them at first but eventually opposing parties forced her to compromise. In time, pacts were made with Turkey, Libya, Sudan and Niger to stem the flow and as a result the number has dropped by about 90% as the article states.

Hillary’s statements were addressed to Europeans but arrived at a time when the worst of the storm appears to have passed for them. For us, however, with dark clouds above us, her words are timely.

Trump would not have won the presidency if he had not seized on immigration – ‘lit the flame’- and run with it. He demonized and mocked immigrants at will, rousing enough voters to gain a narrow and bitterly contested victory. 

To many of us it was clear from the outset that Trump was scapegoating immigrants. We also thought that the tactic would be clear to most Americans. Sadly, it was not.

Whomever composed what came to be known as his base, was willing to ignore the obvious flaws candidate Trump showed. That the economy was recovering nicely under Democratic leadership and promised greater gains did not, in the end, make a difference. That Obama was enforcing immigration rules and deporting people living here illegally, did not either.  

The base was angry and wanted something right away.  

Globalization was browning America.

And there was Obama on our screens every day as a reminder of it.

The base, mostly white, said no.

That Trump is a clever manipulator there is no doubt. He knew that globalization had taken away jobs and that governments – both Republican and Democratic – had failed to institute the needed measures to remedy the damage and that therein lay the problem. But harping on that was not incendiary enough to fuel his campaign. Painting a black and white picture was. For a segment of Americans that had felt left behind and wanted quick answers, it was an approach made to order. “You’re good, they’re bad,” cried the great wizard from his mighty pulpit, “Yeah! We got this!” And emotions were roused. The hustler from New York was in a hurry to get elected. He was 70 years old and running out of time. He needed to act fast.

He’s still doing it.

So why is the democratic party still uncertain as to what to do about immigration?

Is it a problem or not?

How does it break down?

Who should come in and who shouldn’t?

Are immigrants needed?

What skills should they have?

The answers may be obvious to some but not to all. Why, then, not bring the issue directly to the people? Why not hold a National Referendum on Immigration where both sides present their views to the country and then we vote on it?

A National Referendum on Immigration would put the matter front and center and allow all of us to pause, assess the arguments in favor and against and make a choice.

Otherwise, the issue is likely to linger on unresolved and remain a force that the president uses to stir up sentiment and advance an agenda that is not in the interest of the nation.

It is clear that Trump does not speak for all Americans, nor does he seem intent on it. Criticisms of his conduct have been loud and harsh from the start, with his electoral win in 2016 tarnished given the evidence of Russian meddling and his having lost the popular vote.

Add to that the results of the recently concluded mid term elections. The House being a better representation of the country at large than the Senate, is there any doubt that the results were a referendum on Trump?

So now is the time to push forward boldly and bring clarity to the question of immigration.

If the majority of the nation were to vote that, yes, we need to restrict the flow, then that is what we should do. But we ought not to let Trump continue to use the issue to brazenly stir dangerous nationalistic sentiments that if not checked, will divide us further and lead us down the road to ruin.

Presented with the facts – through a rational discussion of the pros and cons of immigration – Americans will do what makes sense for the nation today and help clear the path for the country to come together.

Presented with the facts, we stand a chance to stop tearing each other apart and focus on pressing matters.

A National Referendum on Immigration will help us get there sooner.

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