The U.S. is in the middle of a second civil war.
On one side are Americans who think we have a unique, enviable and exemplary culture. On the other side are sanctuary city mayors, their supporters everywhere, and Democrats who desire diversity ahead of assimilation.
The diversity-uberists say there’s no such thing as American exceptionalism. And even if there is, so what? Undocumented immigrants are people too.
My side in this war says it’s not about whether illegals are people — of course they are. Rather, it’s about America being a nation of legal immigrants, not illegal aliens, about a culture so enviable a mixture of many cultures as to be worth preserving.
Using words I wish President Trump as a candidate had used to describe illegal aliens, Attorney General Jeff Sessions appeared to state this view on the day after Labor Day. He said it’s up to Congress in the next six months to figure out the most effective and fairest way to end President Obama effectively approving the presence of people illegally brought into the U.S. as children. Their illegal alien parents violated U.S. law consciously; their children did not. It’s not an easy situation to rectify.
Mr. Sessions said the Trump administration’s action is in no way meant to reflect badly on the children brought here. He’s right. Almost all illegal aliens cross our borders to escape corrupt, dysfunctional economies in their home countries, including and especially Mexico. A reasonable argument is that Mr. Obama violated U.S. laws and the Constitution out of humanitarian reasons, though we can’t discount political ones (more Hispanic illegals equals more votes for Democrats).
But as Mr. Obama has never said, and as President Trump always says, a nation without borders is no nation at all.
Originally, the drive to reduce illegal immigration to negligible numbers was meant to accomplish two things. One was job protection for Americans at the low end of the pay scale along with taxpayer protection from burdensome public school, emergency room and social welfare costs of illegals unable and/or unwilling to fend for themselves.
The second reason was and is to preserve a uniquely American culture. America has a 241-year history of absorbing and enculturating newcomers. But Americans like me doubt my country can assimilate excessive numbers of immigrants not brought up to respect values like individuality, personal freedom, rule of law, equal opportunity, self-sufficiency without reliance on government as a first resort and the rights of others, including their freedom of speech and assembly. And, perhaps most of all, people not brought up with a “can do” approach instead of the “can’t do” that characterizes virtually every unsuccessful culture and economy around the world.
Oh, and I almost forgot, reducing the number of newcomers not schooled in the value of a single national language — English in our case. Americans would do well to have to learn in their public schools fluency in at least one other language than English. (You don’t need me to explain why this is a good thing.)
But it must be a second language of their choice. I and millions of other Americans never wanted a bilingual society — we didn’t want to have to hear a Spanish and English greeting every time we dial up a business. We didn’t want to be asked to press “one” if we want to conduct this call in English, two in Spanish. Canada has nearly come apart at times because of the separatism you get when part of your nation officially speaks English and part French.
I love Spanish — and French. But what Americans like me want is a melting pot where all citizens share English as their common language, share uniquely American ethics, respect for the rule of law and established standards of behavior. We want immigrants to be proud of their heritage but prouder still of their adopted culture.
We do not want a salad bowl mix of unassimilated cultures, a society where people cling to their native languages, customs, behavioral standards and ethics and do not think of themselves as American.
As for Mr. Trump’s initially harsh characterization of Mexican illegals, it helped get him elected not because people like me agreed that most Mexican illegals are murders, rapists, etc., but because we thought the harsh rhetoric meant finally an American president would turn out not to be a liar in promising to seal our border.
On that score Mr. Trump seems somewhat successful. The promised impenetrable wall doesn’t yet exist, nor is there a realistic likelihood that Mexico will pay for it. But on our southern border, illegal crossings are way down. Would-be transgressors apparently no longer think that once across the border, they will be “home” free forever, if not longer.
The Trump presidency’s hallmark should be the most stringent possible enforcement of the law at our borders, plus ordering all law enforcement officers to hunt down and to instantly, if not sooner, return to sender every illegal alien, whether brought here as a child or not, who has been convicted of a crime in the U.S.
Congress should let illegals brought here as children but who have been crime-free continue to apply for renewable green cards — i.e., work permits. This amnesty of sorts should apply to kids brought here up to the day Congress enacts the law Mr. Trump asked for.
• Ralph Z. Hallow, the chief political correspondent of commentary, served on the Chicago Tribune, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Washington Times editorial boards, was Ford Foundation Fellow in Urban Journalism at Northwestern University and resident at Columbia University Editorial-Page Editors Seminar.