Right On: Making sense of immigration

Image courtesy of Pixabay, St. George News

OPINION — I am a supporter of legal immigration.

I have escorted African political refugees from Eritrea and the Congo to an American embassy to fill out immigration applications. I was thrilled to hear one refugee tell me after he’d been to the United States for several months that “America is double good.” He’s since earned a mechanical engineering degree, become a citizen and works for the Department of Commerce.

I believe our country has been and will be bettered by legal immigrants like my friend. I believe that our country’s stature in the world is enhanced as we serve as a beacon of liberty in turbulent times.

Nonetheless, political commentator Heather Mac Donald made an observation that gave me pause: “Immigration is not a service we provide for the rest of the world.”

If immigration is not a service we offer to all comers, what should our policy be?

In the last few months, terrorist acts have been committed by Islamic immigrants residing in this country for years. Apparently they self-radicalized by visiting violent Islamist websites.

Several had been admitted as extended family members of naturalized citizens. This fact has focused attention on our policy of allowing extended family members to immigrate.

Most of us are comfortable with uniting nuclear families: fathers, mothers, children and grandparents. Dreamers who know no other country have my support as deserving to stay. But I find it hard to extend that sympathy to uncles, aunts and cousins and all their spouses and all their children.

Whether Noah’s ark is taken literally or if instead the Ethiopian fossil “Lucy” is the progenitor of the human race, we’re all part of one big extended family. Does that mean we should open our borders and let anyone come and go?

I believe that people who choose to immigrate to the U.S. are making a decision to leave their extended families behind. The first step in making sense of immigration is stop admitting extended family members; stick to nuclear families.

A good second step would be to end the so-called diversity lottery program. Enacted in 1990, the program admits immigrants from around the world, diversifying our citizenry. While noble in intent, Reuters reports that a majority of Americans oppose the program. It is subject to fraud and has admitted terrorists including one who drove his truck onto a New York sidewalk and killed eight.

While ending the diversity lottery program draws widespread support, Congress has tied its termination to other more controversial actions, leaving it in limbo for now.

The best solution to our patchwork of immigration laws is to implement a merit-based system. The benefits of this approach have been demonstrated in other countries.

Canada implemented merit-based immigration in the 1960s. Its program ignores race, religion and ethnicity and instead considers only age, education, job skills, language ability and other attributes that define immigrants’ potential economic contributions.

The result: Canada has the most prosperous and successful immigrant population in the world, despite having a per-capita immigration rate three times higher than the United States.

The U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform, chaired by Democratic Representative Barbara Jordan in 1995 issued merit-based immigration reform recommendations. These recommendations were endorsed by President Bill Clinton and then promptly forgotten.

They’ve been resurrected by President Trump. Despite his well-known anti-immigrant views, he’s received a surprising amount of support. Even the liberal Huffington Post ran an article headlined “Trump is Right.”

A merit-based immigration system would prioritize those with education and job skills that would give them the best chance of success in our increasingly demanding economy. Equally important, our economy would benefit from their skills.

According to the National Foundation for American Policy, 44 of 87 startup companies valued at $1 billion or more as of 2016 were started by immigrants. These are the kinds of folks we ought to be admitting, not the second cousins of refugees admitted years ago.

Implementing a merit-based immigration program need not exclude reuniting nuclear families. Nor need it preclude admitting refugees in desperate straits in their home countries. But such situations should be targeted and limited. Europe’s experience admitting large numbers of Middle Eastern refugees in recent years is a cautionary tale.

We should expect all those we admit to become Americans first and foremost. Our culture is the most diverse and accepting in the world. Immigrants can be proud of their heritage while being patriotic citizens.

Those who practice identity politics prefer to keep immigrants in ethnic pigeon holes and pander to grievances real or imagined. Immigrants with the skills needed for economic success will escape this trap.

Merit-based immigration is a proven success in Canada. Our expanding economy needs more workers, not fewer, as baby boomers retire. Now is the time for bipartisan support for this sorely needed change.

Howard Sierer is an opinion columnist for St. George News. The opinions stated in this article are his own and may not be representative of St. George News.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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  • Walter1 January 11, 2018 at 10:00 am

    Democrats will throw the Dreamers and U.S. citizens under the bus. They want open borders and as many illegal immigrant future voters as they can attract into the U.S.

    • Lee Sanders January 12, 2018 at 12:10 pm

      I don’t know what true “Democrats” you have interviewed. I’m a Democrat and know lots of others and none I know want totally open borders and floods of illegal immigrants rushing in-despite who they tend to vote for. That’s a total red herring spewed by (some) conservatives as a rallying cry, contrary to reality. Most Democrats that I know want some sort of immigration reform that FAIRLY accommodates the Dreamers, productive, yet undocumented parents of children born here, other worthy immigrants and consequently, in the long run, all US citizens. I wonder if you remember reading in history the resistance of the good “WASP” Americans to Irish, Italians, Polish, Catholics in general and other various nationalities, ethnic groups and religions? Yeah, that’s something we should all aspire to as good Americans, right? That seems to be the current immigration philosophy of this administration, only these days it’s mostly limited to those of different skin color. I wish you all would stop telling people what THEY think, whether it’s related to immigration, gender identity, kneeling at a football game or whatever other battle cry you think will turn people against those who happen to have different histories, experiences, values and opinions.

  • mctrialsguy January 11, 2018 at 10:51 am

    Obviously written by a liberal that lives in the perfect world and writes about something that they clearly know nothing about. Also, Canada’s immigration is all by strict standards and well documented and the U.S.A.’s immigration isn’t documented nor under any standards….the border is open, Canada’s is not! Regardless of the baby boomers, most of which have already retired or moved away…there are too many people now here and there aren’t enough jobs for them. In California, you now need to be bi-lingual to: hold any management position; work the counters at any dentist, doctor’s office or medical facility; government facility; or any blue collar working facility (warehouses, construction, etc,..; as all of the employees are now hispanic.

    • bikeandfish January 11, 2018 at 12:21 pm

      Written by a liberal? Wow. Howard seems to be a dyed in the wool republican (“Right On” should be a clue). In this case he is showing an affinity towards classic governance that recognizes bipartisanship isn’t a dirty word.

      All my friends in Cali have jobs and less than half are bilingual. None that are in management every talk in spanish. Your claim is outrageous and unfounded. Ironically, Howard actually believes in assimilation which historically includes language.

  • Craig January 11, 2018 at 11:37 am


  • bikeandfish January 11, 2018 at 12:45 pm

    You have a good essay until the unneeded and inaccurate dig at “identity politics”. Merit based immigration is one of many viable administrative options to help our country and you seem to balance it with the importance of asylum.

    The Heritage Foundation link exposes an ideological bent that is rife with historical flaws. It states, without irony, that the last 40 years created “this unheard-of division of America into official groups”. Thats an untrue and myopic view. Slavery anyone? People of color have been treated, officially (2/3rds was in Constitution) and unofficially, as distinct groups since the inception of this country. The gall of this concept is staggering. Have you never read into the lived histories of Asian Americans in this country, Howard? The Heritage Foundation fellow commends “Common Schools”. You live in Utah, Howard, were countless tribe members were stripped from their families and assimilated by force in such “common schools”.

    There is a fundamental difference between the “cultural genocide” of the melting pot theory and expecting immigrants to assimilate into a democratic republic. Multiculturalism, and its “identity politics”, aligns with the latter despite its common misunderstandings and use as a pejorative by pundits like Howard. Instead of getting their information from ideological opposition such individuals might benefit from actually reading source material and getting outside their prospective bubble, which is fair to ask from someone condoning bipartisanship. At its core “identity politics” recognizes our complex history (whitewashed by the Heritage Foundation link) and the fact that people of different races, religions, etc have experienced Americanism differently at the hands of those in power. Its not deterministic as misinformed authors try to proclaim, as individuals clearly differ from population trends. But we know the basic American experience (life, liberty, pursuit of happiness) has been directly or indirectly denied to large swaths of people solely because of their race, religion, sex, etc. That is as true for native born Americans as it is immigrants.

    Until Howard stops with such lazy rhetoric, logic and insults its going to be hard to take his claim for bipartisanship seriously. The constant attack on “identity politics” by him and Hyde only expose their own bigotry and ignorance.

    • bikeandfish January 11, 2018 at 4:14 pm

      Leave it to Trump to prove my point for me. When asked about immigration from Haiti and then Africa Trump said, as verified by multiple eye witnesses and reported on multiple outlets, “Why do we want these people from all these shithole countries here? We should have more people from places like Norway.” Shorthand: White people, good; people of color, bad. But remember, its liberals who practice “identity politics”.

      Gotta love how Trump never tries to disguise his prejudice when unscripted.

      • bikeandfish January 11, 2018 at 11:43 pm

        I support immigration reform and a multifaceted policy, including a reconsideration of merit based acceptance. I made that clear.

        Howard linked a Foundation article, to support his concept of cultural assimilation, that was full of flaws. I highlighted one of the most egregious. The comment about 3/5s is in relationship to the flawed theory.

        Ironically, your comments about dominance and WASP culture are inherently identity politics. Assimilation such as that requires dissecting various groups into constituent parts and choosing worthiness into Americana. Its a deterministic version of identity politics.

        Our founding culture was definitely fundamentally flawed if you were anything other than a white man. Women couldn’t vote or even have fundamental autonomy. People of color were by and large treated as something “other” and definitely not fully franchised citizens. Skew the 3/5s history all you want, and yes there was power politics involved, but the spirit of it was horrific and dehumanized black Americans. If we didn’t have categories, as Heritage Foundation claims, then why didn’t men of color have the federal right to vote until 1870? Americans of Native decent until 1887, by being forced to denounce tribe affiliation, and all in 1924? Women, 1920? And why were Chinese immigrants not allowed to immigrate for ages and banned from owning property as citizens until 1965? And even your claim about free black men is tarnished very early in American history by the Naturalization Law of 1790. It took diminishing people to race, color, sex and/or religion to get to those conclusions and your own. “Modern identity politics” is just a intellectual inventory of that history and reality. You have proven that point. Its a handful of pundits on the right who seem to want to bastardize into something else more deterministic.

        Love WASP culture all you want but assimilation is fundamentally undemocratic and inconsistent with of founding concepts of liberty. All men are created equal doesn’t leave much room for interpreting WASP as being dominant through political coercion.

        Sorry but Trump’s words have always shown disdain, not care, for non-white immigrants and citizens. He wasn’t trying to help those immigrants when he was asking why we accept them. He was clearly advocating they remain in a country he considers unworthy. He has never taken the time and nuance required to compassionately and ethically consider non whites. That has been clear since day one.

        We’ve excluded people under the guise of racial and cultural hegemony in the past and clearly that form of ethno-nationalism is on the rise again, ie Bannonism. And when you wipe away the fear mongering and predominance of racism there are some remaining concerns worth addressing about the consequences of multiculturalism.

        Already used up too many words but know your conclusion about Anglo culture is and will always be an oversimplified whitewashing of American history. And coercing people to assimilate by definition undermines individual culture and ethnicity. That is the point. Its hard to be proud of heritage while being stripped of the liberty to practice it. Dominance is oppressive and leaves little room for heritage for subordinate groups.

    • eddantes56 January 11, 2018 at 9:09 pm

      Sorry for the length. At least read the last paragraph as you mischaracterized the “blacks as 3/5th of a person”.

      We all have ideological bends. I do, you do. Every has them. You are entitled to your opinion but I suggest you have no facts to back up your generalizations and there is some nice conflation going on between slavery and past injustices with those that are opposed to illegal immigration and might I add, the demographic replacement occurring in our country.

      In my opinion, Sierer is correct that an immigrant can remain proud of their heritage and still be a patriotic American……but it requires adopting the basic pillars of our Anglo culture that laid the foundation for the creation and development and successes of the United States.

      Identity politics as practiced today is a cancer that is so wide spread that I am not confident it can be retracted. Please provide a historical example of a successful multicultural society. There are no examples because one culture must be dominant.

      That is the nug of many of the disagreements among the disparate groups in the U.S. Whose culture (habits, customs, traditions, beliefs, religion, moral views et al) will dominate? Should dominate?

      I favor our WASP culture. Imperfect yes. I suggest the glass was maybe 80% full with plenty of room for improvement. Our founding culture, in my opinion, was no “fundamentally flawed” and thus did not and does not require “fundamental transformation” al la King Obama (Peace be Upon Him)

      Remember that while it is not a justification, we have to realize that slavery, injustice, et al has existed since the beginning of man and our Founders put in place a system that would provide the opportunity for us to work out our imperfections and hopefully increase the “fullness” of that glass from 80%.

      Look around the world, slavery still exists in Africa and the Middle East.

      I believe we should try to right our wrongs but the idea that we should deconstruct our society is madness, especially when you Progressives have no plan….just more gov. Authority.

      I find Heritage Foundation to be a good starting point for debate and discussions. For example, they published a detailed and professional piece detailing with sources that yearly legal and illegal immigrants gobble up 134 billions dollars in service, resources, etc and pay approx. 19 billion dollars in taxes.

      I’m going with these sourced numbers unless someone can correct or modify it.

      Trump was a bit graphic in his description of Haiti. I wouldn’t use those words but I think they are warranted and show more concern for black people than the happy talk from the Dems, BLM, et all

      How can we be happy or even tolerate the misery, death and suffering in Haiti? We have spent billions of dollars and charities have spent billions more.

      Here’s the deal; maybe Trump’s truth telling will wake us up and maybe we can come up with a better plan and really try to help the Haitians who living in primitive, terrible conditions.

      David Azzerad summarized the actual history and intent behind the 3/5 clause.

      “The infamous three-fifths clause, about which more nonsense has been written than any other clause, does not declare that a black person is worth 60 percent of a white person. It says that for purposes of determining the number of representatives for each state in the House (and direct taxes), the government would count only three-fifths of the slaves, and not all of them, as the Southern states, who wanted to gain more seats, had insisted. The 60,000 or so free blacks in the North and the South were counted on par with whites.”

      The South wanted to game the system and if their slaves counted as a full person, the South’s political power would have been enhanced as the slaves could be coerced to vote per their owners whim. The FF specifically put in the 3/5 clause to blunt the misuse of the vote of slaves. Freed blacks were counted as full persons and had a one-man one vote.


    • jaybird January 11, 2018 at 9:32 pm

      Bikeandfish, your explanation is too academic, educated for most of these nimrods.

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