In the midterms, both candidates and voters focused heavily on immigration, a hot-button issue for both sides of the debate. There are good, bad, and ugly arguments on both sides.
By Dr. Kevin Barrett
The 2018 midterm elections should have been about the booming economy. Normally, Americans vote their pocketbook. The truest thing Bill Clinton ever said (maybe the only true thing) was, “It’s the economy, stupid!”
Donald Trump’s economic boom favored Republicans in the midterms. But both parties focused instead on immigration, and the election was dominated by images of the “migrant caravan” moving relentlessly toward the United States. The caravan, which began in U.S.-military-base-occupied Honduras, quickly swelled to more than 5,000 people. In response, Trump ordered 5,000 troops to the border to repel the “invasion.”
Polls show that Trump’s economic policies are more popular than his immigration policies and rhetoric, which appeal to slightly less than 4-in-10 Americans, while alienating a significantly larger segment of the population. Did the president blunder by focusing so intensely on immigration during the midterm campaign? Was it an attempt to mobilize his base to ensure Republican control of the Senate, while sacrificing less-crucial House seats? Or is the president a man of principle who stands his ground even when it’s politically unpopular? If so, that would make him a very unusual politician.
The immigration debate stirs up emotions on both sides, often yielding more heat than light, which makes it irresistible to politicians seeking to mobilize their base. They incite their followers by pushing the usual emotional buttons: Pro-immigration groups call their opponents “racists” and “Nazis” among other unlovely terms, while anti-immigration groups exaggerate the threat posed by “criminals and terrorists” sneaking into the country.
There are good, bad, and ugly arguments on both sides. Let’s start with the good arguments against immigration.
By far the best anti-immigration argument is “population vs. resources.” The United States is the world’s richest country because a small, ambitious, talented population took over a vast underexploited wilderness rich in resources. Our quality of life, which includes preserving wild nature, will diminish as our population increases and our resources are depleted. Since immigration is by far the biggest contributor to population increase, slowing or better yet stopping immigration is crucial to preserving our quality of life. The notion that we need endless growth, driven by an ever-growing labor force, is rank nonsense spewed by ignorant economists brainwashed into loving today’s cancerous usury-based economy.
Another good argument against immigration is that it drives down wages for unskilled American workers. This is undoubtedly true. The counterargument, “No Americans will do these jobs,” is absurd, because supply and demand would quickly raise wages to whatever level it takes to convince the native worker that the job is worth doing. So yes, well-off Americans would pay more for their vegetables if farm workers were paid $20 an hour; but poor unskilled Americans would be vastly better off due to all those $20-an-hour jobs—which are now being filled by impoverished immigrants willing to do them for a whole lot less.
A somewhat less-compelling argument holds that immigration threatens America’s cultural cohesiveness. Historically, poor immigrants from various parts of the world have been coming to the United States and gradually assimilating. It is possible that something has changed that makes today’s immigrants less prone to assimilation, but I have not found compelling evidence to support this assertion. On the contrary, it seems that cultural degradation, in the form of the breakdown of family values, is an internal American phenomenon. If anything, immigrants seem to have stronger family values than natives do.
Along with the good and so-so arguments against immigration, there are the truly ugly ones. The notions of “Hispanic criminality” and “Islamic terrorism” are obscene nonsense spewed by xenophobes and the crooked politicians who exploit them. Statistics compiled by conservative publisher Ron Unz among others show that Hispanic immigrants are less prone to criminal behavior than native-born Americans. And the whole bogus “Islamic terror” threat was manufactured by neocon Zionists using 9/11 and other false flags. American Muslims are actually better law-abiding citizens, with stronger family values and lower crime and violence rates, than native-born non-Muslims.
As for pro-immigration arguments, they cannot successfully refute two key points: (1) Quality of life depends on population vs. resources, and (2) unskilled American workers are hurt by immigration. The honest pro-immigration arguments are: “To hell with working-class native-born Americans, I want my cheap fruits and vegetables!” “To hell with the environment and real quality of life, I want a bigger GDP!” “I like having people around with whom I can practice my Spanish!” “I like having more people coming to our local mosque!”
I personally agree with the latter two propositions. But viewed objectively, I am not sure they are terribly compelling arguments.
Kevin Barrett, Ph.D., is an Arabist-Islamologist scholar and one of America’s best-known critics of the War on Terror. From 1991 through 2006, Dr. Barrett taught at colleges and universities in San Francisco, Paris, and Wisconsin. In 2006, however, he was attacked by Republican state legislators who called for him to be fired from his job at the University of Wisconsin-Madison due to his political opinions.