It depends on your definition of “crisis,” but neither the numbers nor the people who they represent turn what is now happening on our southern border into a “crisis.” Most of those who are coming are teenagers, and most of those who aren’t are women. They are simply walking across the border and giving themselves up to whomever is there. The presence of national guard troops in Texas, called out by the governor, hasn’t changed a thing.
America is a country of immigrants, and the fact that it has become the greatest nation on the face of the earth is due to the fact that people could come here and start a new life. The kind of people that were attracted here were hard working, innovative, creative folks whose energy was put into making a living in a new place, and that experience strengthened and motivated them to build a country that was based on those values.
For most of its history, immigration to America was virtually unrestricted. Why would it be any other way? Other than native Americans, everyone’s ancestors are immigrants. Ellis Island stands as a monument to the open armed approach of America toward those who were in poverty, oppressed by dictatorship, forced into religious conformity, or otherwise disadvantaged. Of the current population of this country, over 40% have ancestors who came here through Ellis Island. Of the million or more who were processed there each year, fewer than 2% were turned away.
But in the 1920’s, politicians realized that there was a growing fear of the cultural, social, religious and economic changes that were taking place as a result of the large numbers of immigrants coming into the country, especially as the numbers of Southern and Eastern Europeans and Chinese began to increase. Following World War I, which restricted immigrant travel and slowed the flow of immigration down considerably, laws began to be enacted which put quotas on certain nationalities, and which were designed to filter out most everyone except those who were wealthy enough to support themselves, or who didn’t have an Eastern European, Central Powers nationality background. America had gone through an immigration paradigm shift.
The depression put more pressure on Congress to increase immigration legislation, the end result being pernicious, restrictive laws which made entering America a matter of pick and choose. It wound up causing great difficulty to Jewish refugees from Hitler, as the “haven of the oppressed” turned many away at the very coastline of the country, and prevented hundreds of thousands of others from leaving Europe at all, allowing them to pile up in countries like Portugal, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland, which in turn closed their borders after declaring “the lifeboat is full.” After that black chapter of history, you’d think policy would change. But few people want to take a look at the parts of our nation’s history that don’t generate good feelings, and that isn’t one that does.
So what would happen to the 60,000 or so mostly teenagers and women who are, as the news media puts it, “creating” out latest border “crisis”? Frankly, do we care? Clearly, many Americans are more interested in what’s on TV or social media than they are in the fate of children whose families send them to our borders believing that they will be better off, and safer, than in their own communities. So much for our foundational principles. The political rhetoric that falls on our ears constantly about our “Judao-Christian values” and the principles of our founding fathers is self serving and inaccurate. Standing in the way of a Honduran, or Guatemalan, Salvadorian teenager’s last hope for a reasonably decent life doesn’t seem to bother us any more than turning away hundreds of Jews in a ship on the Atlantic that was close enough to see the lights of cities on Florida’s east coast did back in 1939.
The border with Mexico does need some security beef-ups, and increases in the Border Patrol and other law enforcement are necessary to keep out the stream of criminals, drug lords and dealers, and other undesirables who make their way here after the money that chases their drug sales and corruption. But the problem needs to be resolved where it is happening, not where refugees seeking the safety and prosperity of a better life in America are surrendering themselves when they cross the border.