Is a rational, civil debate about immigration still possible?
Donald Trump is in the White House today in large part because he was the only presidential candidate willing to tackle the immigration issue. For years, politicians on both sides of the aisle had avoided serious discussion of the topic, knowing that if they took a clear stand, they would inflame the partisan activists on one or the other side of the issue. Meanwhile those activists framed their own arguments in the crudest possible terms: one side denying that immigrants offer any benefits to the country, the other that they pose any dangers. Everyone agreed that America’s immigration policy was broken, but no one made a serious move to fix it.
Now, with two executive orders, President Trump has finally made the first move. But he acted so suddenly, in an atmosphere of such widespread mutual mistrust, that the battle lines have hardened, and the serious national debate that is so long overdue seems even less likely to occur.
Rather than contribute to the furor, let me simply ask a series of questions—questions that should have been raised and discussed a decade or more ago.
- Does our country have the capacity to absorb more immigrants?
- Are there reasonable ways to control our own borders, and ensure that—at least in the future—only authorized foreign visitors will be able to enter and stay?
- Can we admit immigrants without compromising our national security? If some immigrants pose a threat, do we have the ability to screen them out, without barring peaceful visitors?
- Can we make some demands of foreign nationals who come to live in our country? Could we stipulate that immigrants and resident aliens should not expect to live indefinitely at the taxpayers’ expense?
- As Christians do we have a moral obligation to provide help for people in desperate need?
- As a nation do we have a special moral obligation to help people who have been forced to flee their homes in countries where our own foreign policies have contributed to bloodshed and devastation?
Every one of these questions should allow for rational, civil debate. By the way, in my view—and you’re free to disagree—the answer to each question is clearly Yes.
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