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Take a Deep Breath – It’s Not Armageddon

July 9, 2018

Let’s all take a deep breath and step back from this supposed southern border immigration crisis our President is shouting about. Upon listening to him, one would believe we were facing some sort of an invasion of Armageddon proportions. One of the best ways to get to the truth is to look at the actual numbers.

To start, today we are a nation of nearly 328 million people. According to the Pew Research Institute only 11.3 million of those 328 million are illegal immigrants or about 3.5 percent of our total population. Eight million of these illegals are currently employed in our labor force. Of those we find a heavy concentration of them working in the farming and construction sectors. And despite that fact both of those parts of our economy are still facing chronic labor shortages. And if given the chance, the remaining 3.3 million would welcome the opportunity to work as well. Since our current unemployment rate is less than five percent, which economists tell us effectively equates to full employment of those who want to work, giving jobs to the remaining illegals wouldn’t be taking jobs away from the rest of us.

The fact is that we need them. They are important, if not vital, to our national economy and interests and they are not a threat to our national identity. What then are we so afraid of?

I have personally been part of a Southern Florida community that has absorbed three quarters of a million Cubans fleeing Communism. Their integration into our lives and society hasn’t been without its challenges, but by and large they have become productive citizens adding immensely to the vibrancy of our local culture. And their kids have become more American than Cuban. In fact, many speak better English than Spanish. And their grand-kids and great-grand-kids are fast losing any proficiency in their ancestral language. This is the classic story of all the immigrant populations whom we’ve welcomed to our shores in the last two hundred plus years be they African, German, Irish, Polish, Jews, Italians, Chinese, Japanese, Mexican, Latino or Vietnamese.  Just look at the DACA kids known as the dreamers.

Another example of this phenomena that jumps to my mind is one of my Naval Academy classmates. During the Vietnam War we both took our weeks’ worth of R&R in Japan. By sheer chance we met up at the R&R center outside of Tokyo. He was a fourth generation Japanese-American from Hawaii and although genetically he was and looked Japanese, he spoke only a few words of that language. This was his first visit to his ancestral homeland and he was very excited to be there.

So, dressed in our civvies we two American Naval officers decided to hang out together. However, to all outward appearances the Japanese citizens we encountered considered him Japanese and spoke to him in that language. When he couldn’t reply in kind they thought he was putting them on because he was with me, an obvious American. And they became very rude to him.

They would spill food on him in restaurants and do various other disrespectful things to him while being exquisitely polite to me. He became so upset that after two days he cut his leave short and went back to his ship and the American familiarity it represented. No matter how he looked he was totally American. The same will happen to the offspring of the rest of the immigrant populations we are presently absorbing into American society.

So, can we stop shouting, abandon our fears, remember how our own ancestors got here and work to integrate each new wave into our nation? Just as in the past I believe we will be the better for it when we do. We can also take heed of the recent sentiment from Pope Francis who reminds us that tenderness is not weakness. And I would add neither is compassion. When we are confronted with people who are fleeing unspeakable violence and death in their native lands we can’t simply turn a blind eye to their plights hoping that by putting up walls we won’t have to see what is happening to them.