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Commentary: For once, let’s have an honest conversation about immigration

The U.S. has an opportunity for a reasoned, thoughtful debate on immigration. Instead, many people have used the issue to divide Americans. (David McNew/Getty Images)

So much of the immigration debate has been obscured by political rhetoric that it’s virtually impossible for people in Washington, D.C., and on cable news networks to have an honest conversation about immigration reform. As a result, real issues have been pushed aside to make room for name-calling and outlandish allegations. Let’s put all the nonsense aside and, perhaps for just one moment, tell it like it is.

Generally speaking, there are four loud voices in the immigration debate: compassionate advocates, opportunists, racists, and realists.

Compassionate advocates

Compassionate advocates are mostly caring, kind-hearted Americans who want to help as many good people move to the United States as possible because they truly believe it’s the moral thing to do. There are compassionate advocates across the political spectrum, but a majority of them likely identify as Democrats or independents.

These aren’t your talking heads on CNN and MSNBC; they are regular folks who aren’t interested in politicizing the issue. They simply want to help a group of people they believe are desperately in need.

Although compassionate advocates have their hearts in the right place, they often ignore the many problems associated with illegal immigration, including those problems that plague illegal immigrants, such as worker abuse.


Opportunists are motivated predominantly by power. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) are all heartless opportunists. When it comes to immigration, opportunists aren’t interested in helping people. They are much more concerned with how they can obtain as many votes as possible.

To them, allowing tens of millions of illegal immigrants to enter the country over multiple decades is as much a political strategy as it is a policy position. They say they care about border security, of course, but then do everything they possibly can to stop real border security from occurring.

Most opportunists say they don’t want a border wall because they think spending $25 billion on physical barriers is a waste of money. But when they are in power, as was the case during the Obama administration, they add trillions and trillions of dollars to the national debt, often with little to show for it.

Similarly, they claim allowing open borders is about compassion, but then they do nothing to stop illegal immigration even though they know these people are often abused by ruthless business owners and con artists who know immigrants have no place to go when they are being harmed.

Further, despite all their “compassion,” opportunists seem disinterested in stopping tragedies like the one that occurred to Kate Steinle in 2015. Kate was killed by an illegal immigrant who had been previously deported five times while walking along Pier 14 in San Francisco with her family.

Opportunists use fear and intimidation to coerce people into voting for them and supporting their various organizations. Their plan is simple: Bring in as many people as possible, get them hooked on government services and dependent on politicians “fighting” for them to stay in America, and in return, the immigrants (if they obtain citizenship), immigrants’ family members, and/or their kids become lifelong political supporters. This strategy isn’t new, either. New York City politicians in the 19th and 20th centuries perfected these practices on unsuspecting immigrants arriving from Ellis Island, and things have only grown worse since.

While most opportunists want illegal immigration because they think it will help them win elections, some opportunists are staunchly opposed to immigration. They spread fear and misinformation to people who are scared of “losing their country.” They make Americans believe all immigrants coming to the United States want to fundamentally transform it, rather than simply assimilate and build a better life for themselves and their families.


Then there are the racists. If you were to believe left-wing media reports, then almost everyone who supports border security — which, by the way, is most Americans — are racist. The truth, however, is that most people who support real border security, including a wall, aren’t racist. They would be just as concerned if white Canadians were to come to America illegally by the millions and were coerced by powerful politicians into thinking everyone except them are racist.

That doesn’t mean, however, that there aren’t real racists out there. There certainly are, and they should be opposed and exposed whenever possible. America has always been a nation of immigrants. We have all benefited tremendously from the unique perspectives, knowledge, and skills provided by people from radically different cultures. Further, when managed responsibly, immigration is an extremely important part of economic growth, especially in a country that has much fewer people than growing economic powerhouses like China and India.


Realists predominantly identify as conservative or independent, but there are a large number of Democrats who hold realist views as well. Immigration realists understand the complexity of the immigration debate. They want to treat immigrants, even many illegal immigrants, with compassion, but they also want border security. They know that without border security, including a border barrier, the whole concept of America as a “nation” falls apart. They welcome immigrants, but only those that are law-abiding and willing to contribute to society by paying taxes, working hard, and following American laws.

Realists aren’t racist, but they do understand how immigration is being used as a blunt tool by many politicians, especially Democrats, to fear-monger, and they don’t want millions of people coming to America who aren’t interested in personal liberty and respecting the rights of others.

The time for real reform has finally arrived

Of the four groups, the conversation is often dominated by the opportunists, but polling shows most people are, in fact, realists. Even a left-leaning Harvard Harris poll conducted recently found a majority of Americans support “building a combination of physical and electronic barriers across the U.S.-Mexico border.” Further, 79 percent of respondents in the same poll said they support a merit-based immigration system, and most people opposed the current diversity “lottery” model.

Opportunists in Congress and in the media are working tirelessly to stop immigration reform because they want to use and abuse immigrants or spread fear and misinformation. However, this is a historic opportunity to get reasonable, fair-minded immigration policies passed. In fact, depending on how the 2018 election goes, this could be the last chance realists have for many years.

The time for real immigration reform, including border security, has come. Let’s not allow our elected representatives to squander this chance to resolve this incredibly important issue.

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