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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  • Steve A-Reno

    Excellent article.

  • Tom Tharp

    The heart-mind dichotomy is indeed problematic. Part of the problem is that, with regard to immigration, interest groups, politicians and the media generally deny our minds the facts we need to make reasoned judgments. Are minors fleeing an intolerable situation in Central America? Consider murder rates/100,000 population.

    El Salvador 41
    Guatemala 40
    Honduras 90

    Detroit, MI 55
    Flint, MI 62
    East St. Louis 63
    Camden, NJ 87

    (By the way, murder rates in Belize and Jamaica, two popular tourist destinations are 45 and 39 respectively.) They aren’t fleeing in terror any more than the people of Detroit, Flint, East St. Louis or Camden are. The unpleasantness is just a fact of life in those places. And the neighborhoods where they are settled in the U.S. with their relatives also generally have high rates of drug-related gang violence.

    The federal government tells us that unaccompanied alien minors are almost all from Central America. In FY 2012, 77% were male and 83% were 14-17. In FY 2013, 73% were male and 76% were 14-17. They are exploiting the loopholes created by Barack Obama to stay here and work illegally.

    • Nancy Thomas

      If they were REALLY running from danger….they could just STAY in mexico.
      No, this is a planned invasion, coordinated by mexico, and engineered by President Revenge.

    • Wayne

      well written.

  • Tom Tharp

    A few more facts that inform the discussion of our high rate of immigration, legal as well as illegal.

  • crosxb

    Yes, immigrants have energy and want to work. But they are abandoning their own country. Instead, they need to work for changes in their own countries – and make opportunities for themselves and their children there.

    Yes there is crime there, but will fleeing from crime and leaving the criminals there intact and unstopped – is that a good thing? It only exacerbates the original problem.

    We can encourage illegals to work for change in their own countries. Then everyone can benefit from economic trade with our southern neighbors, instead of stealing their hardworking citizens from them.

    • Wayne

      The U.S> already sends billions of dollars to those countries. About trade, what ever happened to NAFTA?

  • yahoo.com

    Im no farmer. However, i know when i smell BS. Where are these illegals gonna live in black communities not in the communities of the politicans voting to an encouraging them to come here. What was the solution when gang violence devastated the black community? The only solution for any illegal including the children is make a better way of life in your country of origin. The only reason they come here is for free benefits. Education, ssi, welfare, housing, and jobs. Americans especially African Americans died for all the freedoms these illegals seek to steal. Period paragraph. Close the borders and deport. The ones that have earned skills and degrees here can be deported too to utilize their skills and professions at home the Dreamers. Stop using and riding on the coat tails of African Americans to further your cause to kill steal and destory. America was founded on Christianity not idols.

    • Nancy Thomas

      They did an ethnic cleansing in South Central Los Angeles and their gangs ran out the blacks.

  • Nancy Thomas

    Send them back. They steal work away from our most vulnerable citizens; blacks, legal hispanics, veterans, and the disabled. Blacks used to work in meat packing, slaughterhouses, retail, trucking, construction, manufacturing, hotels, food service, landscaping….areas now totally dominated by illegals, forcing blacks onto welfare or starvation.
    Illegals cause lower wages and higher unemployment.
    We have 20 MILLION (or more) people out of work, we do not have a labor shortage, and we do NOT need illegal immigration and another amnesty that will bring MORE illegals.
    Obama is out of his mind. He hates this country and the people of this country. The man is shameful and makes me sick to my stomach.

  • James Bowen

    The most effective way to deal with illegal immigration is to strictly enforce the law in the workplace. This would remove all benefits to illegal immigration for all parties involved.

    • Wayne

      also fraud with medical and welfare.

  • Geno

    Charity should always begin at home. Insufficient medical services for veterans, hungry kids and gangs in our cities, SSA owed 3 trillions dollars, I would say we have more than enough to fund without taking on other countries charity needy. 92 million Americans out of the workforce, I cannot see how we need more workers at this time!

    • Wayne

      It’s those tech companies that want foreign {cheaper} workers to take the place of American workers who DEMAND what they should rightly get. Those companies KNOW they can push foreign workers around, but American ‘s won’t go for that B.S.!!

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  • Pav Sterry

    There are many Americans who are living in situations as bad as those who say they are refugees (but not economic refugees). We have the same gangs in the U.S., we have very dangerous neighborhoods, poor economic opportunities, sex trafficking, drugs,people living in homes where the utilities have been cut off and others are homeless. Anyone who wants to give their own money to “the children” already can. Why should tax dollars go to help foreign nationals who are no worse off than many of our own?