Claims of Compassion and Racism on Immigration Policy

It was the end of yet another long day. The final bell would ring in less than five minutes. Staving off exhaustion, I leaned back in my chair and listened to the bright young man before me describe his big plans for the future.

“In a few years, I’m gonna have my own business, and we’re gonna to do nothing but concrete. I’m gonna be rich, too.” He wore a North Face jacket and a pair of $200 cowboy boots—a good sign for sure, if money was the goal. He continued, “I’m gonna do it by hiring new people who just got here. I’ll tell them, ‘Five dollars an hour, take it or leave it.’ If they ask for more, I’ll just find someone else that doesn’t have anything.”

This rather callous statement surprised me, not because it showed a lack of business savvy, but because the young man before me was himself an illegal immigrant.

Pablo (not his real name) was charming, smart, and brutally honest. He made no secret about being undocumented, describing in detail to the class how people from Mexico and Central America rode the train—“La Bestia”—to the United States. He told us of the coyotes who smuggled them in—“$10,000 guarantee, $5,000 with some risk”– and how people kept that amount saved up in case they ever got deported. Some turned up again in as little as two weeks.

Central Americans Undertake Grueling Journey Through Mexico To U.S.

I start with this story for two reasons. First, many commentators have already written excellent philosophical pieces analyzing the current border crisis, especially Victor Davis Hanson and Peggy Noonan. If I didn’t begin with my own experience, I’d have nothing new to add. Second, Pablo’s statements to me and my other experiences with immigrant students have led me to some fairly obvious but important conclusions.

Immigrants come to the United States mainly for economic opportunity and political stability, two things usually lacking in their nations of origin. They don’t risk everything they have to enjoy our superior climate or public transportation, often missing their home countries dearly. Economic opportunity depends largely on supply and demand, while political stability rests on respect for the rule of law. Ironically, both of these are undermined by illegal immigration.

This is why immigration policy is so emotional for ordinary Americans—not because the majority of the country is racist, but because we understand that losing control of our borders erodes the very qualities that make us an attractive destination in the first place.

To people who care about national sovereignty, the charge of racism is particularly frustrating, though not at all unfamiliar. The logic of the Left usually goes something like this:

  1. Don’t think employers should have to provide plans covering 100% of their employee’s birth control choices, including abortifacients? You must hate women.
  2. Don’t think the institution of marriage, having anchored human society for the last 5,000+ years, should be redefined to include same-sex couples? You must be a homophobe.
  3. Don’t support the expansion of the welfare state beyond what we can actually pay for? Clearly, you hate the poor.
  4. Don’t support affirmative action (especially as it has been shown to hurt minorities)? Racist.
  5. Don’t agree with President Obama’s policies? See above.

This is not to deny that some people actually are racist, homophobic, and sexist. But in the political arena, these charges are often leveled to halt honest debate and scare potential critics into going along with the Left’s transformative agenda. Having eschewed reason, progressives claim a monopoly on compassion and attempt to discredit all who stand in their way. The race card is their most potent weapon in this task, and they know it.

It is true that in the past our nation’s immigration laws reflected racist fears, most notably the Chinese Exclusion Act. But it is also true that when a three decades-long wave of immigration was cut off during World War I, working class wages rose. In particular, African Americans found new opportunities working in Northern factories.

For most people, concerns about immigration have little to do with race, culture, or language. I’m not the kind of person who gets offended when asked to push “1” for English. I wish I were proficient enough to “oprima numero dos” for Spanish. I would love to see Pablo able to use his talents to enrich Mexico or the United States—whichever he chooses. I love Hispanic culture– the people, the music, the food. We share a passion for soccer and the Catholic Church.

But I am deeply worried about the repercussions of our apparent disregard for the rule of law. As Noonan asks, “Is a nation without borders really a nation at all?” What happens when localities in Texas and Arizona and California are forced to declare bankruptcy because they cannot continue to provide services to illegal immigrants? What happens when Al Qaeda realizes they can send 17-year-old recruits (or people claiming to be seventeen) into our country via Mexico? What happens when the next decomposing corpse of a child is discovered in a Texas desert?

When I first heard about the crisis along our southern border—thousands of unaccompanied minors arriving with nothing but the clothes on their backs—my first thought was that it was all so predictable. President Obama made an election-year promise not to deport young illegals, and what do you know—more young illegals show up. The idea that our laws exist but are not enforced is dangerous and will not be limited to immigration. It is this sort of lawlessness many immigrants are attempting to flee.


The economic side of the coin is troubling too, although its effects may be felt more gradually. Like Pablo’s business plan, it boils down to supply and demand. Companies would rather hire the people willing to do the job for the least pay. When countries are able to regulate the flow of new immigrants, they can ensure that immigration enriches our society and benefits our economy. If not, new immigrants have less incentive to assimilate and their numbers exert downward pressure on wages, especially when unemployment is already high. The groups most affected by this competition for scarce jobs are African-Americans and working-class whites, not the wealthy elites clamoring to be recognized for their compassion.

But all this talk about the long-term political and economic dangers of illegal immigration neglects the most pressing aspect of the present crisis. Children are being killed and maimed falling off of trains. Girls as young as ten and eleven are being raped, nearly a third of all who make the perilous journey. The ones lucky enough to arrive in one piece find themselves herded into overcrowded shelters—we may as well call them refugee camps—where they sit and wait, without parents or any certainty of a safe future. Churches and other religious organizations are being told they cannot help, even banned from donating teddy bears. How can anyone call this compassion?


Some suggest the answer is just to let anyone into the country who wants to come here. We are told that open borders work. We are told that our government owes just as much to a woman in Honduras who puts her two kids on a train as it does to a factory worker in Pennsylvania or a housewife in Arizona struggling to stay current on their mortgage payments.

America is a compassionate nation. When disaster strikes anywhere around the world, we are the first to offer help. We take seriously the Christian call to charity. We will have to deal with the fact that our government’s lax enforcement of our current immigration laws– encouraged by self-interested business leaders and irresponsible politicians at the expense of the middle class– has resulted in more illegal immigrants living here than ever will be or should be deported.

But for the time being, we have a real-life crisis on our hands akin to an invading army or a Hurricane Katrina. We must act to secure the border immediately using whatever means necessary, including the National Guard. We have to send the message to our southern neighbors that American legal status is not the right of anyone under eighteen who can get here. Children should be returned to the ones best able to care for them– their parents. As the one who issued the executive order halting the enforcement of current law, President Obama should be the one to remind Mexico and Honduras and Guatemala that we are still a country with borders that must be respected. That would be the compassionate thing to do.


Why You Need to See Dinesh D’Souza’s “America”

Go see Dinesh D’Souza’s movie “America: Imagine the World without Her.”

See it as soon as you can. Take your kids. Take your parents. Take your conservative and religious friends who likely already believe its message. Take your liberal and secular friends who may need more convincing. It is truly a film everyone should experience.

At the end of the two hours, if you feel you would have been better served enduring endless fart jokes next door in “Tammy,” I will personally reimburse your eleven dollars and buy you a new bag of popcorn.

Scratch that last. I’m a teacher trying to get through the lean months of summer, and do not have the funds to make this guarantee. But you get the idea.


People who know me might assume that I have always been a church-going, dyed-in-the-wool Republican, but this could not be further from the truth. When I was sixteen I read Bertrand Russell’s Why I Am Not a Christian and the equally anti-Christian Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand, swallowing them hook, line, and sinker. When I was eighteen, my dad told me he would cut me off financially if I paid to see Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11. I went anyway.

I have always thought that if you are going to believe something, you should not be afraid to hear the other side’s best arguments. If your deeply-held convictions fall apart at the slightest challenge, then they could not have been that solid to begin with. Sometimes in order to believe, we must first doubt.

We don’t gain anything from echo chambers. We need to engage head-on with the other side, which is why I have so much admiration for Dinesh D’Souza. I even feel a sort of begrudging respect for Bill Ayers for at least engaging D’Souza in open debates, most recently on Fox News with Megyn Kelly. At least liberal professors are not afraid to say what they really mean and what they intend to do, unlike liberal politicians.


There is an old saying that familiarity breeds contempt. An immigrant himself, D’Souza is the perfect person to answer America’s critics. He does not have to imagine a world without America; he has lived in one.

D’Souza begins with a hypothetical scenario almost too possible to contemplate: What if George Washington had been hit by a sniper’s bullet and the Revolution had died with him? Would the world be a better or worse place for America’s absence?

Through interviews with activists and scholars on the Left, D’Souza presents the five main indictments against America being told every day in high schools and colleges around the nation. They are:

  1. We stole the land from the Native Americans.
  2. We stole half of Mexico in the Mexican-American War.
  3. We stole the labor of the Africans through slavery.
  4. We steal the resources of foreign nations through our imperialistic misadventures.
  5. We steal from our own people through the greed of our capitalist economy.

Basically, America is a country built on theft. As Michelle Obama said, we are “downright mean.” We are not one nation of free men and women, but rather a system of victims and victimizers, oppressors and oppressed. These stories are told by people like Howard Zinn to make us feel shame for our country’s sins, not pride in her virtues. This shame has a purpose—to win our consent in the progressive’s dream to re-make America (to “fundamentally transform America,” as Obama has said), instead of trying to restore her core values of faith and industriousness.

gw america

I will leave it to the film to articulate these ideas, and to D’Souza to convince you that they are oversimplified and misleading. Of course America has made mistakes. We are just as prone to greed and folly as anyone. The difference is our commitment to the idea that in America, “you write the script to your own life.” As Bono notes, we are the only nation that is also an idea. This freedom to chart your own course is the essence of the American Dream and the reason we remain the hope for the world.

Critics may accuse D’Souza of whitewashing the darker chapters in American history, but this is not the case. He simply puts them in their proper historical context. Throughout world history, most states and empires have gained their wealth though conquest and plunder. Look at the Vikings, the Mongols, and the Islamic caliphates. Slavery is, unfortunately, as old as civilization itself, and greed as old as humanity.

The Native Americans took each other’s land through territorial conflicts for centuries before we arrived, killing and enslaving as they went. 3,500 free blacks in the South owned over 10,000 slaves. While many other countries had slaves, we were the only one to fight a war to end it. Instead of plundering their resources, we lost thousands of lives and billions of dollars in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan to give others a chance at freedom (as well as try to advance what we thought were our self-interests). Our capitalist system has enriched the lives of not just our own citizens, but lifted millions out of poverty in India and China.

None of this is said to excuse or minimize the atrocities in our past. America is not perfect. Like every other nation, we have our faults and we have made our fair share of mistakes. The difference is that our Founding Fathers created a framework in the Declaration of Independence that could be used over time to remedy these faults, bringing our actions ever more in line with our ideals.

Despite our imperfections, millions continue to come to our country each year, crossing oceans and risking everything to seek their chance at the American Dream. In what other nation could Frederick Douglass, born a slave, meet with the President of the United States? In what other nation could Madame C.J. Walker, the child of former slaves, become the first self-made female millionaire?


Every year when I teach nationalism, I start by asking how many of my students (10th graders) are proud to be American. Usually about half raise their hands. Many have already accepted the lie that America is no more exceptional than any other nation, and that the United States is synonymous with stupidity and greed. This revisionist history cannot continue to be pushed without severe political and cultural consequences.

See this movie to celebrate America’s greatness, but more importantly to remember what is at stake. You won’t be sorry you did.

Last night, my husband and I saw it with about thirty others. When the credits began to roll, no one got up from their seats. It was almost as if we were afraid of the enormous responsibility awaiting us once we left the theatre, and not yet done being inspired. D’Souza quotes Ronald Reagan’s observation that ours is the only national anthem that ends in a question:

O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave, O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

How we answer this question will depend in part on how well we understand the truth about our own history, and how effectively we communicate this truth to our children. Reagan also said:

“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it on to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.”