I understand that some people oppose the immigration into the U.S. of people from other countries for a variety of reasons. Some of those reasons are honorable – wanting the rule of law to govern the process, the potential cost of integration, the challenge of political and cultural absorption, and the potential loss of available jobs.
And there are those whose reasons are less than honorable – those who are racist, or whose identity depends on the inferiority of others, or who claim that all immigrants are immoral or criminal, or who mis-read American history as if – other than native Americans – we aren’t all immigrants or descendants of immigrants.
CRISIS = JUNCTURE + DANGER
It’s often mistakenly said that the Chinese word/symbol for “crisis” is “danger + opportunity.” I looked it up to be certain. What I found, though, is its meaning actually is “danger at a point of juncture.” The difference is subtle but not insignificant. The word “opportunity” already presumes how one will handle the choices at the juncture. It also presumes that all possibilities at the juncture are dangerous ones.
When it comes to thinking about the current immigration situation, though, both understandings are helpful. With the current waves of people reaching the Mexican border, trying to enter both with and without permission; an administration whose policy and practice is at best inchoate and irrational, if not out-and-out evil; and a Congress unwilling and/or unable to act; we are at a juncture. Likewise, there is danger: for families and children whose applications cannot be processed properly and quickly, and whose treatment and housing are reprehensible; and for the country as it fails so miserably to act morally, with both justice and mercy. Our commonly held sense of American identity is at stake, as well as our moral sense. Likewise, our position as a leader of the global community suffers.
CRISIS = JUNCTURE + OPPORTUNITY
What, however, if we were to look at the crush of potential immigrants not as a threat, and not as a problem to be solved, and not even as a humanitarian exercise but as an opportunity: an opportunity to build this country’s strength for the future? To design, intentionally, a way to absorb them all (save for those who are criminals): to bring these people in, to build decent places for them to live, to give them an excellent education, to guide them through a substantial and meaningful process of acculturation political civic education, etc.?
We can assume that they are motivated. After all, by and large it has been perilous for them to reach that border. And we know that many, many of our immigrants, here legally, have excelled in making the most of the opportunities that America offers, if not they, themselves, then for their children. Look at successful students, successful entrepreneurs, successful scientists and engineers and inventors – never mind a variety of other successes in the arts and humanities – and it is easily evident that most immigrants add far more to our commonwealth than take away.
At the same time, we can’t ignore the poverty, the dearth of jobs, the lack of internet access, and the substandard education in white, black and latinx communities across the country. So, let’s address them all.
OPPORTUNITY = NECESSITY + PLANNING
The motto of the United Negro College Fund is: “a mind is a terrible thing to waste.” And across the country, we are wasting minds and talents and potential. And so many of those people are suffering, wasting away with opioids and alcohol, trapped by unemployment and a rational despair about their future.
What if we targeted communities not by color or religion or geography but by class, income, available opportunity? What if we envisioned this as an investment not just in the people but in the country and its secure success in the future? A Marshall Plan for America?
Perhaps this effort would meet the goal of those seeking reparations. In an intelligent, intentional way, let’s invest in the communities that have been disinvested – and disinvited – for so long.
As I am writing this, I am becoming aware that this sounds like the “New Green Deal” articulated, broadly, by some Democrats. I do not mean it to be such. I’ve read virtually nothing about it and, from what I gather, there are precious few details even to gather. So, please do not read this as a manifesto favoring the Democrats.
Fundamentally, I suppose, I am suggesting that we leave behind our stance of reaction in favor of intelligent, well-planned action.
Action that would benefit the country as a whole – by benefiting those who most need it, and whose potential is, most likely never to be tapped under current circumstances.