Insults and hot air: the American left immigration stance

By Jesse Anderson
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China.org.cn, August 13, 2017
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U.S. President Donald Trump [Xinhua]



Last week, Donald Trump unveiled the reforms he hopes to make to American legal immigration policy. Unsurprisingly -- as with almost everything Trump has to say about immigration, legal or otherwise -- left-wing media immediately attacked the proposed changes, calling them everything from un-American to racist.

Indeed, for many on the left, the reforms are intimately linked with Trump’s other highly controversial immigration policies -- like “the Mexican Wall” and the ban on Muslims from some countries -- and many commentators seem incapable of speaking about them in isolation.

However, what’s interesting is how vapid the left’s criticisms of the policies actually are (also interesting is the fact Trump modeled the policies on the immigration systems of two countries regularly praised by liberals, Canada and Australia).

Rather than attacking the specifics of the plan, they’ve mostly resorted to accusations of xenophobia and to citing America’s history as an immigrant-friendly country. Looking at the specifics of Trump’s plan, however, it’s somewhat difficult to understand why it’s so controversial.

The plan would be based on a points system: People wishing to migrate to America would be awarded a certain number of points based on specific factors, and those with the highest number of points would be given entry priority.

Potential immigrants would get points based on their age (with people aged 26 to 30 receiving the highest number of points), education (with people holding doctorates from American universities receiving the most points), and English ability.

Also taken into account would be the immigrant’s salary compared to the median household income of the state in which they’d be working (so, for instance, if the immigrant would be making 300 percent of the state’s median household income, they’d receive 13 extra points) and whether or not the immigrant has a Nobel Prize or an Olympic Medal.

The plan would also -- and this may be one of its most contentious points -- reduce the number of legal immigrants entering the country over the coming several years.

So, what are they left’s arguments against it? To get a broad idea, I’d recommend watching CNN’s Jim Acosta question Stephen Miller, Trump’s senior policy advisor, about it during a White House press conference. Acosta brings up the poem affixed to the Statue of Liberty’s base, which is often quoted when someone wants to highlight American’s history as a country welcoming of immigrants, and the story of his father, who fled from Cuba to the U.S. in the 1960s.

However, these are emotional arguments, not serious, factually-based ones, and Miller quickly gained the upper hand in the conversation by asking Acosta a very simple question: What is the number of immigrants that should be allowed into the U.S. each year to meet the standards of the Stature of Liberty poem?

Acosta gave no direct answer, making it clear that, whatever thinking he’d done about immigration policy, was largely superficial.

And this superficiality regarding immigration is embedded throughout the leftwing pronouncements. No doubt most liberals would consider themselves “pro-immigrant,” but the problem is that this label doesn’t mean anything.

How many immigrants does someone have to support coming into their country for them to be considered pro-immigrant? Surely many people consider Trump “anti-immigrant,” but is someone really anti-immigrant if they’re still allowing hundreds of thousands of foreigners to legally enter their country each year?

Answers for these questions might exist, but the left’s problem is that they haven’t thought them through. Rather than calling people racist or xenophobic, they should come up with specific immigration plans and be able to explain why their plan is best for the country. Until they do, it’s going to be hard to take their criticisms of Trump’s policy very seriously.

One does have to question Trump’s choice, however, to have Stephen Miller publically defend his immigration proposals. Miller came into the public eye at the beginning of the year when he made a series of TV appearances that were criticized not only by people on the left, but some on the right as well.

Miller is a dreadfully cold and uncharismatic public speaker, and several incidences from his past have been dredged up that would make one question his tolerance towards people who aren’t white. Letting someone who many on the left already view as one of Trump’s most racist advisors be the voice of an immigration policy proposal that was obviously going to be denounced as racist was a very poor tactical decision.

However, it’s the immigration policy, and not Stephen Miller, that the left is going to have to attack in a credible way if they want centrists to pay attention. Insults are a far cry from productive debate.

Jesse Anderson is a writer and translator originally from Seattle. He is currently based in Mexico City.

Opinion articles reflect the views of their authors, not necessarily those of China.org.cn.

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