We are a nation of immigrants and should remain so, but there’s a lot of anger stirring on the subject.
Are we overpopulated? No.
Is there room for more people? Absolutely.
Who wants to keep the door open to new entrants? Business.
Who doesn’t want to? Those who perceive themselves as being left behind, feeling the newcomers are taking something from them, something they deserve because they were here before.
Business is clear in their position. Jobs are going unfilled. New talent is needed, from manual skills, caregivers, farm labor to physicists, engineers, scientists, technologists, mathematicians. Business wants them all, without unnecessary delays.
Their argument – we will move forward faster, create more wealth, stay ahead in the ruthless competition for advantage. They have a point.
The other side, the side who feels they’re being left behind – the cultural side – also has a point.
‘Why are we still behind, why are we not catching up?’
Some of the left behind may have the capacity to move up while others may not. Or they may not have the motivation. But did they have the opportunities? If they haven’t, why not?
If we’re going to start solving the immigration problem, we must listen to their side too.
Theirs is a more complex side than that of business because it exposes deep weaknesses in our system of government.
If in a given town, a business chooses to pull up and move elsewhere, that is their choice. Some of their workers will go with them but some won’t. Some will say, ‘Okay, that industry was the only game in town, so now I have to get going and move to another town, so I can make a living and feed my family. Others may not have such initiative or have yet to find it.
Sound government has a responsibility to the left behind. A responsibility to provide the necessary training for them to enlarge their capacities to work in a changing environment. That task must be done on such scale that it includes most of the affected.
When that is done then there will be less room for resentment.
I was in Germany in September of 2021, and in one of the cab drives I took I spoke to the driver. He was an immigrant from East Asia. ‘How was he adapting to life in Germany?’ I asked.
He loved it. He liked his cab driving because he could pick the hours he worked. His children were going to school. Life was good. Then there was this cousin of his, who after being laid off from his previous job during the pandemic, found out that the government was offering training programs in IT. The cousin jumped at the opportunity. A year later or so the man was making nearly 4 times the salary he had been earning before.
Not all the left behind will have the spunk the cousin had, but many will. If the opportunities are offered.
But to not have opportunities for advancement while seeing that our borders are overwhelmed and in perpetual chaos, is to inflame whatever resentments exist.
Thus the importance of dealing squarely with the immigration issue.
The perception of an orderly transition to coming into this country must be restored.
Right now the impression is that cheating is rampant. People overstay their visas. Others are allowed to stay in the country while their cases are processed but then they don’t show up for their hearings. Meanwhile, they use government services that the left behind finds intolerable.
‘Why not us?’ they ask.
Some politicians have made careers exploiting the resentments of the left behind without offering solutions. But demonizing the immigrant is not acceptable.
Building a wall is not either. Separating parents from children abhorrent.
Reason and compassion must prevail.
So we have to act. Otherwise the perception of lawlessness at our borders undermines our trust in government.
The task of solving this problem is urgent.
It will require compromises and bipartisan support but it should not be delayed.
Otherwise the problem will fester and deepen divisions we cannot afford.
The more we convey to the world our capacity to solve problems, the more we can inspire others to do the same and deter our enemies from challenging us.
Yesterday I listened to a 50 minute taped presentation sponsored by the US Chamber of commerce. It was held last year, during the pandemic.
Two US representatives, one democratic, the other republican, spoke on their views. They both agreed on the importance of tackling the problem. I heard them say that the last change to the law occurred in 1986, while Reagan was president.
I heard about legalizing those who’ve been here for years without papers yet making a contribution, all of which is important. Heard also of the importance of not demonizing the immigrant. But didn’t hear a single word about acknowledging and addressing the mounting resentment of the left behind or how to channel it.
It must be done.
It’s a cultural issue.