Glen Olives Thompson Opinion
A protester greets Trump's border visit. A protester greets Trump's border visit.

The immigration issue: a ghost villain

Pragmatic immigration reform is needed but it's not sexy

Damn! Mexican immigration decreases yet again! In fact, according to a study released last Wednesday by University of Texas San Antonio and University of New Hampshire demographers, Mexican migration to the U.S. is down by the tune of 57%.

The (surely radical progressive liberal atheist) researchers note that the continued dramatic decline of Mexican migrants, both legal and illegal, is most likely attributable to continued weakness in the U.S. construction market, lower birth rates in Mexico and the expansion of the Mexican economy.

In short, Mexico no longer has a surplus labor problem.

We’ve known of course for a long time that illegal immigration from Mexico has been at net zero, and that the new wave of immigrants are coming from Asia, not from Mexico, and now the new study clearly indicates the trend is likely resulting in a net loss of illegal immigrants from Mexico, or as Republicans like to say, “self-deportation.”

For GOP politicians, though, the facts are to be damned straight into the pit of hell. Who really needs facts?

Bad public policy is good politics, after all. According to the newest Gallup poll, 70% of Americans think that immigration is America’s most important issue. The politics of fear sells.

Anti-immigrant sentiment is a winning political issue for the Grand Old Party (at least in primary elections).

The Donald’s visit to the “border” last week in his custom Boeing 757 proves it, convincingly. Swamped by a cadre of international journalists, and donning a baseball cap emblazoned with “Make America a Great Nation Again,” Donald Trump declared that “I’ll win the Hispanic vote,” while refusing to acknowledge protesters in the 96% Latino community of Laredo, Texas, one of whom held a sign reading “Your HAIR is Illegal.” Good one.

(Curiously, Local 2455 of the National Border Control Council snubbed Trump, refusing to meet with him at the event.)

Though Trump’s white golf shoes during his three-hour tour (apparently courting his Thurston Howell III persona from a bad Gilligan’s Island episode) never touched dirt (dirt’s a loser after all), and he never got close to the border, he made a great sacrifice, saying in a typical supercilious soundbite that he was risking “great danger” by getting so close to the land of our enemies.

You seriously can’t make this stuff up.

Why is Trump leading in the polls of Republican contenders for the GOP nod? Because both facts and Mexicans are our greatest adversaries. Because our endemic decline as a nation cannot possibly be caused by ourselves, or by political ideologies trumping (pun intended) public policy soundly based on reliable social science data.

When we eschew the illegal immigration myths propagated by the Right, even the Conservative Action Forum admits (begrudgingly) that immigration – both legal and illegal – benefits our economy.

  • Immigrants take less and give more.
  • Immigrants commit fewer crimes and are more likely to report crimes committed against them.
  • Immigrants take jobs we won’t.

We’re fighting a battle against a fictitious enemy. Or perhaps more accurately, we’re fighting a battle against ourselves by foisting our fears, our insecurities and our perturbation over why our middle class is evaporating like so much mist on the desert sands, upon a dystopian underclass that doesn’t even want to be here, and is leaving in droves.

And yet we keep shadowboxing a ghost villain.

Do we need pragmatic immigration reform? Sure, but that’s not sexy.

We could of course be worried about the failure of our economic model, our increasing severe weather events and rising sea levels due to global climate change, the continued shipping of jobs overseas, corporate tax breaks and subsidies given to big campaign donors, among many other pressing issues of our time, but instead we seem to be obsessed about who gets to marry whom, whose granny can legally smoke pot for her glaucoma and who gets to pick our fruit.

Who’s to blame? A rhetorical question, of course.

Glen Olives Thompson is a professor of North American Law at La Salle University in Chihuahua, a specialist in law and public policy and a regular contributor to Mexico News Daily. 

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