Immigration is not a national emergency – GazetteNET

I applaud the Gazette’s decision to have more opinion pieces from a politically conservative point of view.

Richard Fein’s Feb. 25 column “Is legal and limited immigration anti-immigrant?” is calm and rationale. But I respectfully disagree with his choice of data, and his interpretation of the facts.

As he states, in absolute numbers, our country does accept more immigrants annually than any other nation. Yet we only rank 65th in per capita acceptance of immigrants, with Australia, and Canada accepting nearly twice the number of immigrants we take in per 1,000 people, yearly.

The pioneering African-American Texas representative Barbara Jordan did say that “unlawful immigration is unacceptable.” But she did this as the leader of a commission which was trying to come up with comprehensive immigration reform, with clear paths to citizenship for those immigrants who were already here. Unfortunately, her untimely death at age 59 led to the demise of these efforts.

What has happened since then? Mr. Fein states that there were 10.7 million unauthorized immigrants in the United States in 2016, according to a PEW research report. But that same report states that 10.7 million is 1.5 million fewer unauthorized immigrants then there were in this country in 2007. More Mexican immigrants are moving back to Mexico than coming from that nation.

So much for a national emergency!

What about walls as an effective barrier? Mr. Fein quotes data about the drop in apprehensions of illegal immigrants by border patrol in locations that walls have been put up on the Mexican border. But experts have pointed out that has not kept immigrants out. It has just led to an increase in smuggling operations (with all the attendant problems of human trafficking and brutality) which have successfully brought in immigrants without being detected.

Mr. Fein points out the problem of those who stay in the U.S. illegally, overstaying their visas. He is correct. This is the largest reason for immigrants staying here illegally. Walls do not stop them.

He asserts that $25 billion — the cost for a “complete barrier” on the southern border — is actually not such a big number compared to the $4 trillion in the federal budget. Almost any number looks small compared to $4 trillion.

According to the Brookings Institute, $25 billion is $9 billion more than a child care subsidy that would essentially make good child care accessible to all families in this country. $25 billion could be much better used to repair crumbling roads, bridges, and schools, provide fuel and nutritional assistance, ensure living wages for school teachers, and so much more.

A border wall would cut through delicate ecosystems, imperil 93 endangered species, infringe the rights of countless landowners, and end the rich tradition of Mexican-American interaction and celebration in many border towns. It would do nothing to cut down on illegal drugs entering the our country because most come through legal ports of entry.

Finally, Mr. Fein asserts that the United States cannot be the savior and refuge for all persecuted peoples fleeing war, violence, hunger and poverty in the world. I agree.

But much of the brutal violence and suffering that refugees are fleeing in Central America is a direct result of ill-advised and illegal destabilizing interventions in those countries by the U.S. over many years. So we have a moral obligation to provide refuge to those families who are fleeing that violence.

Except for Native Americans, we were all immigrants to this country. We need a rational policy to regulate legal immigration and discourage illegal immigration. But a border wall should not be part of it.

Dr. David Gottsegen lives in Belchertown.

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