Are We Still a Nation of Immigrants?
Last Thursday, the US agency tasked with managing and executing our nation's immigration policy changed its mission statement, removing language mandating the protection of "the promise of the United States as a nation of immigrants." The change echoes the anti-immigrant theme of the Trump campaign and his early administration, one of the few issues on which the President has been remarkably consistent.
From the campaign announcement in which he called Mexicans rapists and criminals, to the proposed and attempted ban on immigrants from majority-Muslim countries, to the recent State of the Union in which he called for drastic cuts to the number of family-reunification sponsorships, the President has won and maintained strong support from many Americans for rejecting the role that many immigrants play in our society. And his concerns appear to extend to all immigration, not just illegal immigration. The language of many hardline Trump supporters includes phrases like "I just don't recognize this country anymore," and even never-Trump conservatives favor a merit-based system that will also reduce immigration despite abundant evidence that legal immigrants are often our most economically valuable citizens. The idea that immigrants are changing the identity of this nation for the worse, or that they are somehow diluting the quality of our nation, is among the ugliest recurrences in American history. And it's not just policy, it's an articulation of who we are.
Don't believe me? Yesterday, The Military Times reported that the Trump Administration is trying to deport the wife of a US Army Special Forces veteran; she has been in the country for 19 years. Only after the story leaked to the media did DHS drop deportation proceedings. Is that who we are? For all the fear-mongering about criminal immigrants, and a State of the Union focused on violent immigrant gangs like MS-13, arrests of non-violent illegals have increased at a rate far higher than violent illegals, and DACA recipients who trusted the word of the US government are twisting in the wind. And the conservative solution makes a tryout of US citizenship. Since when is buying into the American Dream not good enough?
Call me old-fashioned, but I'm proud of the America that drew its strength from diversity. We don't compromise our security by welcoming immigrants, we strengthen it. It is those who scream "America first" and "Americans Dream Too" who make us weaker by exclusion and fear. The American Dream is for anyone who loves freedom and will work hard to achieve it, not just those who were lucky enough to be born within our borders.
American has always been a nation of immigrants, so let's not forget where this great country came from. There are few things more dangerous.