The Immigration Debate: The heart vs. the mind

The Immigration Debate: The heart vs. the mind

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Fibonacci Blue/Flickr
Fibonacci Blue/Flickr

LOS ANGELES, August 6th, 2014, Los Angeles – There are real complexities to the immigration reform debate, just as there are with any major issue of policy. There is the question of whether we should aggressively secure our southern border, how we should secure it.

Whether we should accommodate undocumented immigrants who are here currently and even those who are just getting here now.

This latter point has become a sore point of contention in recent weeks with the flooding of southern border with waves of Central American children, fleeing violence and poverty in their own countries in hopes of finding opportunity and accommodation in our own.

But the question we are faced with would seem to be one of practicality vs. idealism, or simply put, one of the heart versus the mind.

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Recent protests in Murrieta, California and a renewed influx of illegal immigrants crossing the southern border, has spawned protests from Minuteman and other groups spanning that border. There is als the escalating political battle between President Obama and Republicans in Congress over whether or not to grant 3.7 billion dollars in funding.

That funding to help agencies care for and process the tens of thousands of young people apprehended at the border, though the administration has been unclear as to whether or not these children will ultimately be deported or permanently accommodated in this county.

And this ambiguity is a reflection of the problem at hand. Because most Americans, it would seem, do not believe that a porous border through which people can come into our country by the tens of thousands is in the fiscal or national security interests of the United States. Yet and still, most too feel a great sadness for the hardships of families who endure great risk to travel to this country, in part because we know they flee conditions far more dangerous and heart wrenching than what most of us experience, and in part also because we relate to the yearning for freedom and opportunity that drives them to this odyssey.

These are the reasons immigrants have risked life and limb to come to these lands since before this nation was constituted.

These are the truths about this issue that tug at our heart strings, making it difficult (for most of us anyway) to condemn people whose actions we understand. All the same, with an economy that has been weak for years, a national debt that hangs like a black cloud over our fiscal future, and the basic understanding that our laws are being broken, there is no shortage of reason to be opposed to illegal immigration on the basis of our own national interests.

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The anger over this is observable not merely in border towns and among white nationalists and conservatives who view this as tantamount to a foreign invasion, but among inner-city African-Americans who have watched historically black neighborhoods under demographic transformation, watched even low-wage jobs become increasingly scarce, and who in some cases have seem criminal elements make their home in such areas where native black populations stand out as rivals in racialized turf wars in urban communities.

While some argue that illegal immigration is a good thing, not least of which the simple fact that so many of these immigrants are decent human-beings who become good neighbors once they arrive in America, it is hard to argue at the end of the day that a porous border is good for America.

Yet, is there a way to honor the humanitarian impulse we feel to try and make life better for these immigrants without sacrificing the interests of the United States of America, and her citizens? This is the direction in which we must be thinking.

For while the attention of the world and certainly the United States has been focused on the affairs of nations in the middle-east, creating peace between peoples on the other side of the world, the societies of our own neighbors here in this hemisphere and on these continents are falling apart.

It is not to minimize the importance of the security of Israel or recognizing the plight of the Palestinians to suggest that perhaps be thinking in terms of committing greater resources and to support to fortifying the efforts of our friends battling cartels and corruption in Mexico, in Guatemala, in Nicaragua and Columbia.

Perhaps we ought to do more to shine the media spotlight on the conflicts raging in the Americas, and assemble multi-national coalitions to constructive engage the poverty and violence of the Latin-American world. Perhaps we can be better neighbors than we have been.

The United States cannot adopt all the at-risk children of the world. That has to end.

But the heart and mind agree, we have an obligation to help the nations who are our neighbors to take care of their own problems. If we do not, we will always be forced to adopt there problems, and citizens, as our own.

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