John Feehery: Speaking Engagements


This is why we need comprehensive immigration reform

Posted on June 19, 2018
This is why we need comprehensive immigration reform.

Nobody likes the idea of separating children from their parents.  Unless, of course, the parents are shooting heroin, snorting crack, drunk all the time or are mentally deranged and a threat to the safety of their children.

And separating kids from parents who are going to jail is probably a good idea too, come to think of it.

Separating kids from their parents actually happens all the time.  So does separating children from one parent.

It’s never nice.  It’s always emotional.  But it happens.

Indeed, it happens all the time when parents in Central America send their children to the United States of America without them.  They would rather have their kids risk the journey through Mexico than to hang out in their own neighborhoods.

Part of it is because of the violence that occurs in Guatemala and El Salvador and Honduras.

If you read the history of those regions, they have been extremely violent for an extremely long time, stretching back to pre-Conquistador times.

In the modern era, it has not been that unusual for right-wing death squads to do battle with left-wing death squads, the conservative groups backed by the United States and the communist groups back by Cuba and Russia.

These battles stretch back to even before George H.W. Bush was CIA Director.

America has never played a particularly positive role in bringing peace to Central America.  Our insatiable appetite for illegal drugs helped bring billions of dollars in revenue to the gangs that dominate the region.

Donald Trump talks about MS-13 and how brutal of a gang it has become.  And of course, he is right.  MS-13 is a dangerous gang.  But it wasn’t born in El Salvador and exported to the United States.  Nope, it was born in the United States and exported to El Salvador.

The problems of Central America are not easily solvable.  Every time Guatemala seems to be making some progress economically, a natural disaster (an earthquake or hurricane) comes bearing down and destroying everything in its path.

But a bigger problem is the nature of Spanish colonialism and its lingering after-effects, yes, still to this day.

The transition to the modern world, to a society based on the rule of law, to strong institutions that promote a strong middle class, to broad-based economic development, has not fully developed anywhere in the region, especially in those areas that are sending the mass of people to our southern border.

It used to be that the bulk of folks coming to America via Mexico were Mexicans, and of course, there are still a lot of Mexicans that commute back and forth to this country.

But Mexico, thanks to NAFTA, is a much stronger place economically than it was back in the mid-1990’s.  Yes, while it still has a drug cartel problem that must be dealt with, they are not the ones sending the bulk of the unaccompanied minors to the United States.

Of course, Mexicans have played a significant role in the drug trade in America, especially the spike in heroin deaths that have destroyed whole communities in our nation’s heartland.  Read the book “Dreamland” if you don’t believe me.

And so when Donald Trump attacked illegal immigration for hurting the American people, he wasn’t making it up out of whole cloth.  Illegal immigration does hurt America and we need to something about it.

What we need to do is shore up the southern border to make it more difficult for people to sneak in this country.  We need to send a message to folks in Central America (and in Mexico) that they can’t come to this country unless they do it by our laws, that there won’t be any easy ways to get citizenship if you refuse to do it the right way, and that you will face prosecution and yes, that prosecution will be an unpleasant experience for you if you decide to flout the rules.

But as we secure the southern border and send a message that there will be no amnesty (I hate that word), we also have to acknowledge another basic fact.

Immigration is the life-blood of America.

Without lots of legal immigrants, our country will stagnate, our Social Security system will go broke, our economy won’t grow as fast as it should, lots of work will be left undone, we won’t have adequate construction workers or farm workers or people to do high-tech work.  We won’t attract the world’s best baseball players or hockey players or computer programmers.

The thought that America is best without immigrants is completely ridiculous on its face.  The immigration restrictionists don’t understand a thing about economics, or history or demographics or business or national security.

In other words, legal immigration is good.  Illegal immigration is bad.

We should expand the first and stem the second.

None of that can happen without comprehensive immigration reform.

Which gets me to my first point.

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