I’m Not From Here Myself
By Patrick F. Cannon
My father was born in Ireland, and arrived at Ellis Island as a toddler in 1908. Somewhere, I have a copy of the ship’s manifest, and even a picture of the ship itself. I’m not unique in my generation in having a foreign-born parent. Just in the last couple of days, I’ve exchanged e-mails with a friend with a similar background. So, we know what it means when someone calls the United States “a nation of immigrants.”
Today, about 45 million of our fellow Americans have legal immigrant status, which is about 14 percent of the total population. Some became citizens; others have permanent resident or other status. The largely accepted number of illegal immigrants is 11.5 million, which has been fairly steady or even slightly declining over the last few years. And the influx of new legal immigrants has recently averaged just over one million per year; about 60,000 of those have been refugees.
Listening to some of our fine politicians, you would think the ratio of legal to illegal was just the opposite. Interestingly, Mexico is at the top of both the legal and illegal lists: 6.5 million of the illegal total, and 140,000 of the yearly legal list. China and India are next with about 70,000 each. They also figure on the illegal list, with 200,000 for India and 120,000 for China. Although I haven’t taken the time to check, I suspect many of these were admitted legally on student or travel visas, and simply didn’t go back when their visas expired.
It has obviously been much easier to enter the United States illegally from Mexico or Central America than it is from China. Unless you’re smuggled by sea in a shipping container, as has happened, you have to get an expensive airplane ticket and have a passport and visa if you’re coming from the Far East (or anywhere across the water for that matter).
If you live in an area with significant numbers of both legal and illegal aliens, Chicago for example, you are very likely to see and even interact with them almost daily. If you eat out, a very high proportion of the folks who cook your food and help serve it will have come from Mexico or Central America. They may have installed your new roof, and certainly have cut your grass and otherwise maintained your lavish gardens. If you’re alert, you’ve also seen them packed in vans on their way to do day labor throughout the city and suburbs.
Despite the odious pronouncements of President Trump, they seem to commit crimes at a rate less than the national average. But if they do, and are here illegally, the current law requires that they be deported. Actually, the current laws provide that anyone who is here illegally is subject to deportation. There are some legal niceties involved in the process, unless the person is more or less caught in the act of illegally crossing a border, or has done so fairly recently.
The Trump administration has pointed out that deportation hit record levels during the Obama administration, and this is quite true. As we now know, they have plans to accelerate the process. While the famous wall on our southern border may not rise immediately, a significant increase in border agents and police is in the works. While the priorities will actually be much the same (criminals, people caught at the borders, serial offenders), the numbers are likely to set new records. And all of this will be done, not through some extralegal whim of the mercurial President, but to enforce existing laws.
Who then should we blame if good people get caught in the net? The people who enforce the laws or the people who make them? Do illegal aliens who have been here for a specified number of years, and have a clean record, deserve some kind of legal status? Does Congress really think that the existing laws make sense? Are they prepared to see 11.5 million people (or whatever the actual number is) rounded up like cattle and deported?
When legislatures fail to do their duty, bad things can happen. Look at Illinois. Washington is just failure on a bigger scale. Deplore President Trump to be sure. But what has your Congressman and Senator done for you or the country lately?
Copyright 2017, Patrick F. Cannon