Trump’s obsession with building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border – an obsession shared, I’m sure, by Trump’s base – is impossible for me to encounter with any emotion other than disgust. The very idea is disgraceful. Here we have a political “leader” and his followers who seem truly to believe that among the gravest threats to American prosperity, values, and culture are poor Spanish-speaking people who wish to come here to mow our lawns and to clean our motel rooms.
I don’t care if this ugly hostility to non-Americans is called bigotry or prejudice. Call it blueberries and sweet cream. Call it what you will. Whatever it is called, it strikes me as reflecting nothing more than the ages-old tribalistic fear of others – a fear that has so often, throughout history, been exploited by “leaders” to agitate and rouse the masses, always to unfortunate outcomes.
I will say plainly: anyone who thinks that among the proper responses to America’s problems – whatever these problems might be – is the building of a border wall is thoughtless, misinformed, and easily duped. He or she is driven by primitive emotions and not by reason or civility. He or she takes the easiest and most animalistic route of all to reach conclusions about society and the economy – namely, that most of “our” problems are caused by “them” and, therefore, “we” will be rid of most of “our” problems only if and when “we” separate “us” from “them,” those unfamiliar and sinister outsiders.
If you’re worried about genuine criminals immigrating to America, you should learn the facts rather than swallow the assertions of demagogues. And if, after learning the facts, some fears of immigrants continue to haunt you, recognize at least two realities:
First, the fears that immigration skeptics have today about immigrants are the same fears that the immigration-skeptics’ grandparents and great-grandparents had yesterday about immigrants – about the likes of the Irish, the Germans, the Italians, and the Polish. (See Jason Riley’s excellent 2008 book, Let Them In.)
Second, a screening system far more civilized and less ham-fisted than a brutal wall is available to address this concern. Specifically, we could get rid of immigration quotas and return to the Ellis Island-era regime of immigration.
Alas, the Trumpian hostility to immigration reflects no rational fear of genuine crimes being committed by immigrants as much as it reflects atavistic fear of foreigners.