Everyone uses doublespeak to talk about the Executive Order on Immigration. Liberal groups talk about the discrimination inherent in bill. Conservatives speak about the need to protect our nation from the threat of terrorism and the loss of life that could come with it. Both arguments are basically disingenuous and until we start saying what we really mean we cannot possibly achieve sane, just policies about immigration, refugees and a host of other issues.
First, the liberals. It is easier for me to write about liberals because I am one. The ACLU, liberal law makers and others rail against the president’s order because it discriminates against Muslims. It does discriminate and that is a problem. But the primary issue liberals object to is not discrimination but the closing off of our country from immigrants, in general, and refugees, in particular. If there was no ban on particular countries, if there was “only” a major cut in the refugee program, liberals would still object vociferously. But liberals run into a problem with their primary objection: the president has complete control of the borders. So, instead of voicing support for refugees and immigrants, we talk about the problem of discrimination because it is an easier legal challenge to mount. Don’t get me wrong, we should fight discrimination. But we cannot silence or obscure our commitment to immigrants and refugees in the process.
Conservatives primarily argue that the Executive Order protects American lives. At the news conference announcing the revised order, Attorney General Jeff Sessions spoke about the 300 refugees under FBI investigation for involvement in terrorist activities (with no mention of how many have been or will be charged). This morning on NPR Ohio Congressman Bill Johnson talked about attacks carried out by refugees. Any loss of life is terrible. But this cannot be their primary concern. Why? Because there are so many threats which take so many more American lives than refugees and immigrants.
If the real concern were saving as many American lives as possible the first issues we’d focus on would be guns or heart disease or traffic safety or cancer. Any one of these kills so many more people than refugees. We should not waste money keeping immigrants out if our primary goal is saving lives. We should invest it in issues that kill so many more Americans each year. These issues present great threats to our homeland security. These issues are all greater threats to human life than immigrants or refugees.
So, what is the real concern of Conservatives who wish to keep out immigrants and refugees? I’m sure they vary. Perhaps the arguments are economic. Perhaps the arguments are sociological. Perhaps the arguments are plainly political: this is what my constituents want. But, for President Trump at least, I’m going to take him at his word. He wants to keep them out because he believes in “America First.” This xenophobic, racist motto from the 1930s resulted in the death of millions of Jews and others who could not get out of war-torn Nazi Europe during World War Two. This xenophobic, racist motto ignores all of the studies that demonstrate the vastly positive impact that generations of immigrants and refugees have brought to this country generation after generation. Every time we close off our borders we look back later in shame. Perhaps some people have more pure, more compassionate reasons for closing our borders, but Trump has made his real motivation clear. If his reason was to save lives he’d invest the resources in the many greater threats to American lives. No, as he said many times, his reason is to promote “America First.”
Enough with the doublespeak. Liberals let’s not only talk about discrimination, let’s talk about our commitment to immigration and refugees. Conservatives, please speak about the real reasons to support this ban and stop hiding behind the figleaf of “saving lives.” If it really is about saving lives then let’s partner to find and fight those things which truly take American lives each year instead of scapegoating immigrants and refugees who only want to improve themselves and, at the same time, contribute their talents and hard work to these United States of America.