by Stephen Smith
The impending confrontation with the caravan of migrants, which began in Honduras, is now upon us. I am praying that a tragedy, both long-term and short-term, be avoided. I seek a compromise that all will demonstrate compassion, long-term positive results and be remembered with great fondness. The plight of thousands of people who have lost hope in their native countries, lie heavy on all our hearts. It is hard to know what to do because we Americans by nature are a compassionate and caring people.
That compassion is not limited to one political party or another. Liberals and rednecks alike jump to the aid of our fellow man whenever and wherever disaster strikes. When needed, Americans are there. It might be the Cajun Navy, Catholic Charities, the Red Cross, FEMA or just one person giving his neighbor a helping hand. No nation on earth reaches out to strangers, anywhere or anytime like we Americans do. We are very good at short term and clearly solvable problems. Long term problems are quite a different question.
President Trump’s deployment of the U.S. Military comes with many short-term risks, especially if people are injured and their suffering increased. The long-term benefit could be finally achieving effective immigration policy. The open border policies of Democrats provide immediate feel-good benefits. However, if the military fails to stop the migrants at the border, and/or the Democrats let them pass, this will provide incentives for future mass migrations on a scale we have never seen. This will cause very high long-term disadvantages from high demands on infrastructure and social stress. Angela Merkel’s government is failing because of her open border policy. Neither option provides for the immediate needs of the migrants who have arrived on the border and who require food, water, clothing, shelter and medical care before they would be able to continue their journey or return to their country of origin. We may not be able to integrate all who come to the U.S. into our society, but basic human decency requires we do what is necessary to help them survive the consequences of their decision.
Immigration has always been an issue in the United States. In the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson in his attack on King George III wrote, “He has endeavored to prevent the population of these states; for that purpose, obstructing the laws for naturalization of foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migration hither, and raising the conditions of new appropriations of lands.” The Alien and Sedition Acts signed into law by John Adams in 1798 were about the rights of the nation to deport aliens and immigrant voting rights.
From our nation’s founding until the mid-20th century, America had a labor shortage and relied heavily on the energy and population growth provided by immigrants. Most often, immigrants came to America looking for opportunity. They sought to integrate into our society and become part of the “American Dream.” Frequently, they had family here who would help them get a start in their new home. Without any entitlement programs, if they could not make it, they would return to their country of origin. With all the benefits and entitlements available, today there is no longer a need to return if you cannot become a productive member of our society. So, the times, they are changing. Full assimilation is unfortunately no longer a priority.
That lack of assimilation is not unique to America. Recently Germany, France and Sweden have welcomed Muslim immigrants and refugees in large numbers. They provided a full range of benefits, even including a moderate income. In the beginning, the host countries were very proud of their compassionate outreach. As it turns out, being provided for seems to take away the incentive to assimilate into the general society and culture. Cultural conflicts have led to confrontations with their hosts, which are sometimes violent. The citizens are having justifiable regrets about their hospitality.
Jordan, a country with a population of nine million in recent years has taken in around three million refugees. The first came from Iraq during “Desert Storm.” They arrived with lots of money and now live in the finest high-rises in Amman. In the desert country where water is rationed, they have plenty. The second wave of refugees is from Syria. They are poor and came only with the shirts on their back. Jordan is a very poor country and the Syrians are living in the desert with minimal food and water while being housed in tents. Culturally, they are considered cousins and guests, so under Islamic law, receive priority health care and schooling over citizens. The Jordanian people are not without resentment.
Recent history has shown us that it is important not to let in large numbers of immigrants at a time. The problems and costs are endless. We should not go forward without finding a working system that will help insure success and assimilation. That said, we should not be without compassion in dealing with the caravan at the border. I remember reading the accounts of Mountain Man and trapper Jedediah Smith, who, after crossing the Mojave Desert, arrived with his party of fellow trappers at Mission San Gabriel, sick, tired, hungry, thirsty, supplies gone and horses dead. The Friars took them in, gave shelter, nursed them back to health and sent them on their way completely re-outfitted. Jedediah later wrote that he always remembered the Good Friars of Mission San Gabriel with great fondness. For now, I think it best that we defend our border, but act in a way so that we too will be remembered with great fondness.