What’s In A Word?

Have you noticed that immigration, the hot button issue in the 2016 election, has undergone an incredible transformation

We don’t even know which word defines it, do we? The words “illegal immigration” have made a transition from “illegal” to “unauthorized” to “undocumented” to simply immigration.

Words matter.

The progressive view of all immigration (which is presented as mainstream in most traditional press and news programs) has led the transition to the virtual elimination of the word “illegal.” It’s rare to hear the word anymore when American immigration policy is debated.

Even Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson cautioned a recent interviewer that the use of “illegal” was “incendiary” to the Hispanic community when referring to people who have overstayed visas or entered the country illegally. The proper word he says should be “undocumented.” See?

It’s always this way with words and the media. It’s a race to be the definer of the issue. If you win the race, you control the issue. But is that good for us?

Need an example? How about the abortion arguments that come down to phrases like “pro-choice” vs. “pro-life”. I mean, what reasonable American would be anti-choice for goodness sake (or anti-life for that matter)?

The same thing has happened with immigration policy and, like abortion, the issues involved are complex and emotional.

In the past week, Donald Trump made a tight and reasonable speech that was both praised and vilified in the usual places. And if he actually believes what he said, he doesn’t sound like a xenophobic racist. Of course, it may be a little late for him to sound reasonable, a view recently shared by Paul Mirengoff, of Powerline, in his concise summary and commentary on the speech.

I agree, reasonableness by Trump should have come sooner. Most of the speech did seem… well… reasonable, in fact! Then I looked at what the mainstream journalism outlets like the Washington Post were saying. They were “fact checking” each point of Trump’s speech. For instance, they gave him 4 “Pinocchios” for the statistics he used for the number of illegal, undocumented, or unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. federal prisons. They also chided him for moderating his tone.

This caused me to go on a mission to separate the fact from the fiction on this issue, because the only way to discuss this rationally is to know the facts, right?

Here’s what I found out. There is an incredible amount of statistics out there and it contradicts both sides of this issue. You can find statistics that give you “facts” whichever way you want to argue. And it’s way too complex to simply hurl little (or big) insults at one another.

It turns out that American immigration policy has always been confusing and somewhat contradictory. It’s also resulted in lots of racism, condescension and turf wars. This goes for any period of large-scale immigration, in any era, regardless of the origin of immigrants, legal or not.

However, in our own era, the percentage of foreign-born people living in America is larger than in past waves of immigration, probably because this era of immigration has gone on longer than most. This wave began in the Sixties.

The U.S. periodically lets in big waves of immigrants and then shuts it down. This time, the government has allowed huge amounts of people to enter either legally or by ignoring those who come outside the legal process and has granted amnesty for undocumented people twice in the last 30 years! Now, we may be headed toward a third time with our estimated eleven plus million undocumented foreigners. Even Trump has become cautious on the idea of deporting 11 million people.

In the past, the usual pattern was to allow entry to a big number of foreigners over a shorter period of time and then close the doors and allow for the natural assimilation that occurs over a generation or two. This hasn’t happened and may account for all the emotion over immigration right now.

But the one thing I want you to take away from this discussion is that immigration has historically made America better, but it’s always been a difficult issue. Our politicians have “kicked the can” down the road for too long this time and we need real reform now.

If we’re ever going to work together as a unified nation, we must begin to see that there are many reasonable approaches to immigration policy from all sides. We have to get this right for the future of our great country and for our children.

So I challenge the Political Storm community to do a little research. What are your ideas on how to reform immigration and deal with what we’re facing? Bring it all back to us to comment on and argue a bit. But do us all a favor: start by considering that, just maybe, you’re not entirely right and the person with a differing view is not absolutely wrong.

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