The Logical Twilight Zone: The Immigration “Debate” in America

Here is an excerpt from a conversation I recently had with a friend of mine about immigration:

My friend: “So what do you think about President Trump’s recent banning of Muslims from the United States?”

Me: “I don’t think that’s what happened.”

My Friend: “Yeah, he just banned any immigration from like seven countries.”

Me: “Did he ban Muslims or did he ban people from certain countries?”

My Friend: “But they are all Muslim countries.”

Me: “Ok. So he banned people from certain countries that happen to have a majority Muslim population? And he did this for a certain, limited amount of time in order to review what the enduring policy should be going forward right?”

My Friend: “Yes, but people with families can not come back here.”

Me: “I don’t think it is that bad. The countries on the list have failed governments that are incapable of vetting who is being sent to our country.”

My Friend: “It’s just that on top of the wall he wants to build it all seems so hateful toward immigrants. Plus I don’t think the wall will even work.”

Me: “That seems like a contradicting position to take. If it won’t work how it is hateful? Wouldn’t people still be able to cross the border illegally by that argument? In your mind doesn’t it either have to be hateful because it will work very well or it won’t work very well so it can’t be hateful- it would maybe just be frivolous instead? However, I have never known you to be against job-creating government spending. After all, this would put a lot of laborers to work on building the wall; many would even be in labor unions I bet. This seems like a win, win especially if the wall is very effective, but then you would be back to saying it’s hateful again, right?”

My Friend: “I don’t think it’s that simple. It is hateful even if it doesn’t work because it makes people feel like they are not wanted in this country, we are a country of immigrants.”

Me: “Do you want people coming here illegally, blatantly ignoring our laws, taking jobs, using infrastructure without paying taxes, and driving down wages in labor markets (see my post on the Limited Logic of Sanctuary Cities)? Oh and by the way making it more difficult to justify accepting additional immigrants the legal way? We have no idea who is walking across that border. I like to think in terms of the most likely verse the most lethal outcomes. The most likely is a Mexican that is looking to better their life by moving to the United States, which they see as a land of opportunity, rich with jobs and advancement possibility. However, the most lethal is that ISIL gets some operatives into Mexico, and they simply walk across our border to conduct their mission. When weighing the most likely verse the most lethal possibilities, especially in light of the fact that there is a legal way for the first individual to enter our country, I think it is insane to open ourselves to that most lethal threat. Is it your position that we should just allow anyone that has a desire to enter the United States to do so freely, with no restrictions and stay if they decide that is what they want to do and what is best for them?”

My Friend: “Everyone wants to secure our border, a wall just won’t work.”

Me: “But you just said it would work. You just said it would make the people that we want to stop from coming here feel like they ‘aren’t welcome’. That at least gets the point across. It would stop the people that come here now because they think it is easy.”

My Friend: “They only want to come here because life is so bad in their country.”

Me: “I believe that is true, in most cases, and I think that is an issue worth dealing with around the world- I do. However, doesn’t our country get a say as to whom we allow to enter? Before you say anything the answer is yes because we are a nation. Do you think you could just walk into Mexico tomorrow unannounced, with no papers? You could even have a child, take a job, and then when the Mexican authorities find out and start questioning why you are there without authorization that as long as you get indignant with them, maybe march around with a sign, and shout that you have a family there to a TV camera that they should be willing to let you stay? Would that be your expectation of their government? Because it seems that is the expectation of our government by those that come to our country illegally.”

My Friend: “Well they do jobs that Americans won’t do.”

Me: “Oh boy…”

I will stop there for your sake. It is hard to follow the logic (or lack thereof) of my friend’s arguments, but it is similar to what we see take place everyday on cable news by pundits, on the editorial pages of national newspapers, and even by leaders of the Democratic Party. They don’t even seem know what principles they are trying to stand up for anymore.

It is impossible to even figure out what my friend’s desired outcome would be in regards to immigration. One minute my friend seemed to want completely open borders, but the next minute he/she conceded that securing the border is in everyone’s interest as long as it is not in a ‘hateful’ way. The lack of conviction is what weakens the position. If you want open borders then try and make a case for that. I will debate you until my last breath that your idea is a bad one for the security and sustainability of our country, but at least I will respect your argument that is based in principle. Instead, we get straw man arguments about illegals here that have families now and only want to follow our laws…excepting of course the one they are breaking by being here in the first place. We get guilt trips about a Muslim from Yemen that is probably peaceful (his counterfeit passport from their failed state surely seems to espouse that fact).

These are not easy problems to solve, but they are simple. We must have the courage to do the right thing. We must be able to vet those coming to our nation from other countries. This is much more difficult to do when the country of origin has a government that has failed and is unable to provide the type of checks on its citizens that we require from other countries. A temporary ban to figure out how we can effectively vet people from those countries, or a determination that we actually cannot do so is not hateful toward the people that want to come here. On the contrary, it will actually help ensure their security as well as ours once they are here.

We must secure our border- a wall is one proposal that seems like it might work (though it will be expensive to both build and maintain). Then we must have a debate as to what to do with those that are already here illegally. That could be amnesty for all; it could mean mass deportations, or some combination of the two. All of those arguments actually have merit. However, in order to get to a point to have a real debate on them we must cut through the non-sense and red herrings that are proliferated with blazing speed in our information age. Think critically; live freely. Thanks for reading!

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