One of the questions raised by the events in Boston last week is whether it should effect changes in U.S. immigration policy.
As a child of the Holocaust I am very sensitive to immigration issues. The sorry actions of Breckenridge Long, a State department official who was thinly disguised anti-Semite contributed mightily to the numbers of my people who perished in the Holocaust. From a PBS website:
[In] an intra-department memo he circulated in June 1940… [Breckenridge Long] wrote: “We can delay and effectively stop for a temporary period of indefinite length the number of immigrants into the United States. We could do this by simply advising our consuls to put every obstacle in the way…”
90 percent of the quota places available to immigrants from countries under German and Italian control were never filled. If they had been, an additional 190,000 people could have escaped the atrocities being committed by the Nazis.
Needless to say I am very much in favor of immigration reform. Never again should the State Department be able to pursue such restrictive immigration policies.
That said I understand the dilemma this country faces. America is a very desired place to live by people of all nations, especially those that are economically depressed. Illegal immigrants from Mexico and elsewhere have risked their lives trying to gain entry just so they could work at menial jobs. Jobs that very few Americans are willing to do. Those jobs provide income for their impoverished families back in their country of origin – even at the very low wages they make.
So an open door policy would mean a flood of immigrants coming in hoping to improve their lives. They would all be seeking the same number of limited jobs. The same menial ones that Americans are unwilling to do. There is a limit to how many of even those jobs are available. What America does not want is a new dependency class that will break our welfare system… and possibly even destroy our economy. So immigration must be controlled.
And yet there has been an almost free flow of illegal immigrants coming across our southern borders. There are an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants currently living here.
In a perfect world, they should all be penalized for violating our immigration laws by being deported. But it is not as simple as that. Most of these people have jobs that actually aid the economy. Jobs that would mostly go unfilled. They have lived here many years, pay taxes, have families and are law abiding respected members of their new adopted communities. Their children have known no other world. Having been born here they are legally American. They are also culturally American. Deporting their parents (who would take their children back with them – or leave them here in some sort of foster parenting situation) would be counter-productive and a great injustice.
In my view there needs to be a way to allow these people to stay here legally – unfair though their entry may have been. This doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be penalties for what they did. But deportation would be an injustice in far too many cases – and it would probably hurt the economy.
Proposed legislation would deal with these issues. Based on media reports I see a more or less fair resolution of the problem. It includes fines, requirements to have jobs, and a ten year waiting period that provides a path to citizenship. It also includes measures to tighten our borders so that crossing them illegally will be reduced by 90%.
But one thing I have not seen addressed is who we will be allowing in.
As a Jew and a child of the Holocaust – remembering the Breckeniridge Longs of the world – I am loathe to base restrictions on any particular religion. But that is precisely what I am doing. I propose that Muslims be given extra scrutiny when they apply for immigration. And that those who are found to be here illegally be deported.
I am not proposing they should be completely barred. As I have said in the past many times, most Muslims are not terrorists. Most are law abiding citizens and should be given the same opportunities to pursue life, liberty, and happiness in a country based on that credo. Religious freedom embedded in the Bill of Rights is one of the cornerstones of our way of life. Immigration policy should reflect this. So I would never suggest that Muslims be barred from entry. Nor would I ever suggest quotas for them that are different than for anyone else.
But I do believe they should get extra scrutiny. There should be extra vigilance by immigration officials – backed by law that will enable them to profile Muslims and check their backgrounds more thoroughly.
It should be obvious by now that it is from their number that the greatest threat of terror comes. Radical Islamist/Jihadists are Muslim by definition. There is no way to separate them as a distinct ethnic or religious group. If an immigrant is Muslim – this ought to be seen as a red flag and it should generate extra scrutiny.
This should not be seen as racist or in any other way prejudicial. It is nothing more than prudence in light of recent history. A history that includes violence as the philosophy of one of their branches. A branch that believes in murder and carnage to achieve their religious goals. A branch that 2 American Muslims somehow gravitated to. Ignoring Islam’s part in this because of a misguided form of political correctness is why things like the Boston bombings happen.
This will of course not eliminate all terrorism. We will still have the Timothy McVeighs of the world. But there can be little doubt where the source of the vast majority of terrorism in the world lies. And that is in the Islamist version of Islam.
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About the Author: Harry Maryles runs the blog "Emes Ve-Emunah" which focuses on current events and issues that effect the Jewish world in general and Orthodoxy in particular. It discuses Hashkafa and news events of the day - from a Centrist perspctive and a philosphy of Torah U'Mada. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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