Today’s New York Times brims with immigration dysfunctions galore. The paper’s immigration reports tellingly underscore the front-burner role this white-hot policy issue plays in the nation and the world.
In the first section alone, we see:
· An open-mike faux pas by British PM Gordon Brown, referring to an immigration opponent as a “bigoted woman,” prompted his abject apology and now risks a Labor Party loss in the UK election next week;
· A controversial opinion piece and articles on the political, legal and economic fallout of the Arizona Peace-Officers’ Suspect-and-Arrest-or-Refrain-and-Be-Sued Act;
· A report on four Dream Act marchers’ arrival in DC on a trek by foot from Miami, paired with a plea by Sens. Durbin and Lugar to former AZ Guv and Homeland Security chief (Janet Napolitano) that she grant deferred action and employment authorization to Dream Act beneficiaries as an exercise of prosecutorial discretion;
· A story on pillow-less immigration detention facilities and other atrocious indignities visited on detainees and visitors alike;
· Interviews with a trafficking coyote and would-be border crossers;
· A prosecutor-proposed life sentence (based on bank fraud, with immigration charges dismissed) — opposed by (of all people) Nixon-era Attorney General (Ed Meese) and seven other federal AGs — on the convicted owner of a notorious Kosher slaughterhouse raided by ICE;
· How immigrants to New York have brought with them a “remarkable trove” of up to 800 foreign languages, making the Big Apple “the most linguistically diverse city in the world”;
· Remarks at a deficit-reduction forum by President Bill Clinton on the need to increase the number of young, taxpaying high- and low-skilled immigrants as a material aid in saving the economy, Social Security and Medicare.
While all the stories add context and texture to the immigration debate, the piece most worthy of highlighting is the one offering Bill Clinton’s views on the role of immigration as a form of fiscal savior:
I don’t like that Arizona bill but I get why it happened. . . . The real reason there’s anti-immigrant sentiment is, if you look at the numbers, it’s white male factory workers without a college degree that got killed [financially in the last decade because of falling wages and the economic downturn]. . . . But they’ll get more jobs if the economy grows, their taxes will be lower if we’ve got more taxpayers. The pressures on Social Security and the changes we’ll have to make will be slightly less draconian if you have more people contributing into the system.
Well-respected author, news analyst and immigrant to America, Fareed Zakaria, expands on Clinton’s points in his must-read book, The Post American World — a tour de force on the challenges and opportunities America faces with the “rise of the rest” (particularly China, India, Brazil, Russia as well as other emerging nations):
Immigration . . . gives America a quality rare for a rich country — hunger and energy. As countries become wealthy, the drive to move up and succeed weakens. But America has found a way to keep itself constantly revitalized by streams of people who are looking to make a new life in a new world. . . . America has been able to tap this energy, mange diversity, assimilate newcomers, and move ahead economically. Ultimately, this is what sets the country apart from the experience of Britain and all other historical examples of great economic powers that grow fat and lazy and slip behind as they face the rise of leaner, hungrier nations.
Will America’s promise and heritage as a nation of immigrants become tomorrow’s bird-cage liner, or, will we take today’s messages to heart and move forward with immigration reform by act of Congress or, if necessary, by Executive Order?