Sunday, January 29, 2023

Build the Wall, Grant the Visas

The Biden administration has a proposed a compromise to try to get a handle on the Southern border: 30,000 visas a month for Cubans, Venezuelans, Haitians and Nicaraguans as long as the migrant is able to find a sponsor in the US and pass a background check.  This means the sponsor is financially responsible for the parolee, i.e. the immigrant is not eligible for public assistance, read welfare.  The counterweight is continued enforcement of Title 42 at the border, with deportations to Mexico of those found to have crossed illegally.  This is a common sense strategy which deserves broad support from the American public.

The alternative is the mythological wall, proposed by a National Populist candidate and later president who then proceeded to pay lip-service to it, but not actually build it.  If National Populism is a virus, "The Wall" is one of its most repugnant symptoms.  Not because it is wrong to want to secure national borders against violations of the rule of law, but because it was used symbolically to divide the American people and instill a disdain and hate of "the other," often brown or black.

What conditional sponsored visas do is restore the rule of law to immigration policy.  It is not viable national policy to allow unrestricted violations of the law on a daily basis, no matter how desperate a group of people may be.  Those individuals in need, capable of passing a background check, obtaining economic sponsorship in the United States, working upon arrival and renouncing access to public assistance are the type of people we need in this country.  Far from demonizing them, nor allowing them to be used as wedges by the National Populist movement, we should welcome these individuals and encourage their integration into American society.

This may also be a time to rethink American birthright citizenship.  But not in the way National Populism wants.  I was given my American citizenship, and I then proceeded to earn it. How?  Through three years of military service, 20+ years (and counting) of regular employment, yearly contact with the Internal Revenue Service, and by being what some may call an upstanding citizen with no violations of the law.  Whenever I encounter a birthright National Populist, kin to the Know Nothings of old, my first reaction is to wonder: besides being lucky enough to have been born in the Land of the Free, Home of the Brave what else have you done for your country?

My controversial proposal is to strip everyone of birthright citizenship and make them earn it after their eighteenth birthday.  And not necessarily through military service.  Sure, that would be one option, but many other options for national service exist: the Peace Corps, AmeriCorps, intelligence agencies, diplomatic corps, etc.  At the end of such service, a citizenship test would be administered to assess not only knowledge of English and American history, but also knowledge of civics: respect for the opinions of others, knowledge of the concepts of separation of powers and co-equality of the branches of government, respect for the rule of law, respect for the principle of majority rule, as well as its co-existence with minority rights.

Let's enforce our Southern border, of course.  But let's also come up with bold, pragmatic, and radical centrist ideas that prevent the extremes on the left and the right from taking over the debate.  I believe the Biden administration's policy is a good start.