“Any person with the courage, with the desire to tear up their roots, to strive for freedom, to attempt and dare to live in a strange and foreign place, to travel halfway across the world is welcome here.”
Those words were spoken not by Barack Obama, or Bernie Sanders, or Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, but by Ronald Reagan. His principles should be the basis of a new immigration policy for America. This thought occurred to me as I saw photos of men on horseback chasing down would-be Haitian immigrants and refugees on our southern border. Whatever the justification for the policies being enforced, the images they produced must rank with those of children being torn from their parents during the Trump administration or being caged in both the Trump and Obama administrations.
America can, and should, be able to do better. Ronald Reagan has told us why.
Now, many might argue that we’re already doing our best to implement a sane and humane immigration policy, but that our resources are simply being overwhelmed. However, as the wealthiest nation in the world, America can muster far more in the way of resources, and use them far better, than our current efforts indicate.
To do so we must first of all recognize that America is truly “a nation of Immigrants,” as President Kennedy liked to say. Most of us—with the obvious exception of Blacks descended from slaves—have ancestors who came here voluntarily as immigrants. This is true even of the so-called “Native Americans,” whose ancestors were not native to America but who were prehistoric Asian nomads who simply got here first. But given that our own ancestors were immigrants from whose decisions we’ve benefited, we should extend the same opportunities to new arrivals seeking the opportunities our ancestors sought as well.
Moreover, we should recognize a special obligation to immigrants and refugees from Latin America and the Caribbean. The history of America’s political, economic, and diplomatic interactions shows that much of both the bad and the good south of the border is a product of American intervention over the decades. To the extent that immigrants are coming to America fleeing conditions for which America may be partially responsible (no–America is not responsible for every social evil south of the border), we should accept some degree of responsibility for alleviating the relevant conditions from which people are attempting to escape.
To these ends we should at least:
– Expand our detention centers for immigrants and refugees, where they can live as families while their cases are being processed—and we should vigorously reject any comparison of our centers with Nazi concentration camps, which were centers for mass extermination, especially for Jews, and holding pens for slave laborers (who were also murdered once they’d been worn down through overwork and forced starvation);
– Vigorously and without apology socialize those admitted to society by instructing them in American values, whether through citizenship classes for adults, or public schools for immigrants’ children, where accurate and comprehensive American history and civics courses are part of the curriculum and recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance to OUR American flag and the singing of OUR national anthem are standard practice, and where only the flags of the United States and American states and cities are flown (private schools can fly whatever flags they want, but foreign flags have no place on the flagpoles of public schools or other government buildings; and if immigrants want to live in America, they’re allegiance must strictly be to the American flag);
-Pursue pro-growth economic policies based on the principles of free market capitalism to expand the economy and create the wealth and jobs necessary to absorb newcomers without allowing them to become a burden on hard working Americans;
-Pursue new measures to help Latin American countries, especially in the Northern Triangle, to fight the grinding crime and poverty from which so many are trying to flee, while learning from our previous failures in the region.
What’s offered here is not a prescription for open borders. We cannot, and should not let everyone in. We have every right as a sovereign nation to determine who can, and who cannot, have the privilege of coming to America. We must weed out criminals and terrorists and deny them admission.
But our policies should be geared to helping the men and women and children with the courage and drive and initiative to “tear up their roots, to strive for freedom.” These words may well have described our ancestors and how and why they helped make America great. The new arrivals who conform to Ronald Reagan’s description should likewise have the opportunity to contribute to America’s greatness as well.
Malcolm L. Cross has lived in Stephenville and taught politics and government at Tarleton since 1987. His political and civic activities include service on the Stephenville City Council (2000-2014) and on the Erath County Republican Executive Committee (1990 to the present). He was Mayor Pro Tem of Stephenville from 2008 to 2014. He is a member of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and the Stephenville Rotary Club, and does volunteer work for the Boy Scouts of America. Views expressed in this column are his and do not reflect those of The Flash as a whole.