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President Trump’s immigration and refugee policy, for example, is couched in cultural, ethnic, and civilizational terms.Christians and Jews are pitted against Muslims, and Mexicans and Hispanics are pitted against whites.
As the accompanying chart shows, they become refugees, asylum seekers, or internally-displaced persons.
In 2017 the number of ‘people of concern’ to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) was 65.6 million.
Tip O’Neill was right In normal times, such as when the last major immigration laws were passed in 19, the debate about immigration revolved around markets — how many migrants should be admitted and with what skills? The break came with the repeal of the national origins quota system and the 1965 passage of the Hart-Celler immigration act.
— and rights — what status should the migrants have? Or should they be allowed to settle, bring their families, and get on a “path to citizenship? (The 1965 act's quota on immigration from the Western Hemisphere froze out many Mexican and Central American immigrants, and lead to a surge in unauthorized immigration from south of the border.) In the heat of the 1986 immigration debate, former House Speaker Tip O’Neill described immigration policymaking as “political death.” The policy game becomes infinitely more complex when a country feels threatened, physically or culturally. What’s more, refugees were screened according to ad hoc foreign policy criteria — chances for individuals to be granted asylum were much greater for those fleeing a communist regime.
Until we find a way to legalize their status, we risk undermining a social contract that extends rights in return for labor and long-term residence ultimately binds us together as a nation.
Of course, the United States is not the only liberal society that faces this dilemma.
In times of war and political crisis, a focus on markets and rights gives way to a concern about culture and security.
This is what has happened in the first year of the Trump administration, in recent years in Europe, and in parts of the world such as post-Apartheid South Africa, where foreign workers were victims of xenophobic violence in 2008. after spending five years in a refugee camp in Turkey.
The economic need for openness versus the political and legal pressures for a closed society are what I call the “liberal paradox.” Dynamic economies need immigrant labor, and open societies are stronger than closed societies. We must be willing to grant foreign workers and their families a basic package of human and civil rights that enables them to flourish, settle, and become full members of our society.
Dynamic economies need immigrant labor, and open societies are stronger than closed societies. We must be willing to grant foreign workers and their families a basic package of human and civil rights that enables them to flourish, settle, and become full members of our society.