Whew! The 2016 USA presidential campaign has been exhausting to think about, to discuss, and goodness knows to imagine that Trump wins. And he can win. Why he can or cannot win has been the subject of many news program discussions, and most that I have seen just miss the point. No, better said, most are in denial about what a large segment of the American population is willing to believe, say, and vote for. When I hear the denial, it usually manifest itself as a question, “Who believes such a thing?”
It is clear to me that about 35-40% of the American public believes in Trump’s principle—I am better off surrounded by people like me. I believe he applied this principle to his thoughts on immigration reform. When he said in his speech, “immigration reform should mean … improvements to our laws and policies to make life better for American citizens.” I thought wow, not sure I can agree with that. For me immigration reform should be about our government’s ability to know and control who comes into the country, and who leaves the country. The purpose of crossing the border, the numbers of people crossing the border these are not things to be settled with onetime edicts. If people managed their property so that no one crosses their property line without an expectation of, “make their life better” many notions of “good citizen” would have to end. For example, notions like helping a stranger, charity request, advertising to educate, all would have to end. Later in his speech, Trump followed with the comment, “new screening tests for all applicants that include an ideological certification to make sure that those we are admitting to our country share our values and love our people.” What the hell, not only is any such test likely to create false positives, and false negatives, it is inappropriate standard for interacting with others. If anyone was only to interact with people who share values and love them, you’d be the most isolated person ever. Interacting with others should have a standard of respect for differences, not isolate ourselves to only those who are like us.
When Trump stated his goals for his new immigration commission, only one of the four made any sense. The four points and my comments:
- To keep immigration levels, measured by population share, within historical norms. Historical norms is not an appropriate standard. The countries ability to absorb new immigrants have everything to do with the state of the economy and the level of birthrates. Neither are measured accurately by “historical norms.”
- To select immigrants based on their likelihood of success in U.S. society, and their ability to be financially self-sufficient. Interesting standard, as I cannot decipher if it is driven by disdain for the poor (I do not want to let them in), or a systematic plan to keep American citizens on the bottom of the income status ranks (letting in wealthy financially self-sufficient people will ensure, American born people are disproportionately the poorest in the society). If I had to guess it is the latter, as Trump has to have somewhere to put today’s inner city dwellers who have nothing else to lose.
- To choose immigrants based on merit, skill, and proficiency. This statement is an example of sounds good, and everyone should agree, but in reality it is such an incomplete thought that agreeing or disagreeing too soon sets you on a path of allowing an earlier commitment (to the incomplete thought masquerading as a principle) to draw you into compliance with notions that are otherwise unacceptable. We need to understand how merit, skill and proficiency a) would be measured, and b) if they are indeed needed or desired in the country (excusing for a moment all risk of poor measurement).
- To establish new immigration controls to boost wages, and to ensure that open jobs are offered to American workers first. This notion I agree with, because it ties immigration levels to the state of the economy (taking a bit of faith that wage growth, and employment opportunities are a measure of the economy’s state).
Donald Trump’s ninth point that employers should be held accountable for employing US citizens, or those with government permission to work, is a good one, but tricky to implement, because it is similar to an objective of catching all tax dodgers. A practical impossibility. Not to mention, that employment is not the only way households and families get income, especially in an economy where we are more and more dependent on personal services. Personal service providers (independent contractors) are essentially outside the government verification system, and having the government verify the “right to be here” status of potential personal service providers is not something that feels appropriate.
My last thought for this post, has to do with the grand promise Trump made near the end of his speech. Trump always make grand promises, but most of the time he offers no substance behind how he will get there, and rarely offers anything that would pass for cause and effect. But in this speech he did.
Trump said, “We will accomplish all of the steps outlined above, and when we do, peace and law and justice and prosperity will prevail.” Man, if I did not know better, I would think immigrants are the root of all issues regarding peace, law, justice and prosperity. It’s just not so. The truth is people are territorial animals, and they will always blame someone outside their herd, for the ills of the herd. At best, removing immigrants simply allows people to blame someone else. Improve peace, law, justice and prosperity—It is laughable, what Trump believes is a cause and effect.