Like many American children, my early civic education taught me that the United States has always been a melting pot: a place where people from diverse backgrounds and cultures can come together as a single unit. And there is a certain appeal to this picture.
As I learned more about the history of this country, I started to think that maybe a salad bowl might be a better metaphor. In a melting pot, the various ingredients all mix together and you can’t necessarily discern what went into it. In a salad bowl, none of the ingredients lose their original nature. Indeed, the act of becoming “American” has no requirement that you eschew what you previously were.
It’s why we technically have no official language under the law, despite some people’s efforts to the contrary.
The USA has always had a bizarre relationship with immigration. Indeed, if you look at world history and events that have triggered large scale migrations, there was probably pushback against immigration from those areas into America. Ireland in the 1840s thanks to the potato famine. Russia in the early 1900s thanks to the revolutions of 1905 and 1917. Germany in the 1930s thanks to the Nazis. The Mexicans and middle easterners in recent years thanks to currency devaluation and the Arab spring respectively.
I often talk about how there’s something truly special about becoming an “American”. Imagine the range of emotions people must go through as a part of the decision making process. To decide to give up your family, your friends, your home, your very way of life to make a journey to a place where, stylized imagery notwithstanding, the only certainty is uncertainty. How bad must things be in your home country to even consider such a drastic change?
And that’s the big question. Immigration on a large scale is always either a direct or indirect result of more people in a geographic region than there are resources to support that number of people. What’s going on in Syria right now is an easy example of it: a drought, caused by global warming, took its toll on the nation’s farmers, who migrated to the cities in hopes of finding jobs and commodities. The infrastructure of the cities wasn’t prepared to handle the influx of people and the people already in the cities started to resent this movement. Tempers flared, fights broke out, and the next thing you know, the country became enmeshed in a three-way civil war. So some of the immigration from Syria is a direct result of strained resources (the drought) and some is an indirect result (getting away from the war).
I don’t want to give lip service to the objections of any country that is on the receiving end of large-scale immigration. There are legitimate questions about the cost of providing goods and services to every new person crossing the border and it’s never an unfair question to ask, to wonder when the tipping point will be, when the cost outweighs the benefit. (All too often, the knee-jerk reaction is just to the cost without regard to the benefits.) For every new person who comes to the country, there is an added need both within the government and the private sector to provide for them: jobs, basic goods, health care, police, infrastructure, etc. Is there a point where the availability of those things is outweighed by what they provide in return (taxes, spending on those goods, volunteer work, intangibles that occur simply by their presence — see the movie It’s a Wonderful Life for details…)? Of course there is. But I don’t think we’ve come anywhere close to it.
Now you’re free to disagree with me on that point. Maybe we’re closer to that tipping point than I say. Maybe we’ve already passed it. It’s certainly possible, to be sure. I certainly don’t have a magic formula to know one way or another. Or maybe it’s because, as then-candidate Donald Trump put it, the countries from which immigration is a quote-unquote problem, “aren’t sending their best people”. That could explain why you hear complaints about the Mexicans taking blue collar jobs but not Indian or Chinese immigrants taking white collar jobs.
That’s where we see a ton of hypocrisy. If you’re opposed to immigration while simultaneously denying the reality of climate change and/or restricting access to birth control/abortion services, you’re contributing to the immigration problems that you complain about.
By denying climate change, you’re denying the strains on resources that will inevitably cause populations to relocate. Remember that the scientists who have written about the consequences of climate change, have reported that it will cause natural weather phenomena to happen with greater intensity and in greater frequency. Thus droughts will last longer, floods will happen more often, wildfires will burn for longer, there will be more hurricanes, blizzards, tornadoes, and other harsh weather events. Crops will fail, animal migration will start following different patterns and times. Arable, farm-worthy land will be reduced even more than they already are.
By denying access to birth control and abortion, you’re setting the stage for more people to consume the foods that are already being farmed. Population and population density will increase, and cities will be even harder pressed to meet the needs of its residents. There was a report about ten years ago that said that the state of New Jersey was on track — given then-current growth rates — to run out of land for people to live on within 25 years. I haven’t heard anything about that report since then.
Rising populations and reduced crop yields set the stage for the most hard-hit to need to leave their homes. This isn’t about the ones who want to leave. It’s about the ones Trump sarcastically said aren’t “the best people”.
And the evangelicals are the greatest hypocrites here. They’re the ones most loudly denying climate change, railing against any form of sexuality that expresses itself when people have sex for reasons other than to make babies, and, of course, complaining about the immigrants. Not the only place where they’re hypocrites but certainly one of the most outrageous.
In this regard, I do have to give some credit to the Catholics. At least they (or their current leader) is saying that climate change is a problem, and that we shouldn’t build walls to keep immigrants out. They’re still being irresponsible with regard to the very real problem of overpopulation, but they’re not the hypocrites their conservative Protestant brethren have shown themselves to be, at least in this arena.