Doing The Right Thing By The Newest Americans

Doing The Right Thing By The Newest Americans


Leonard Zwelling

I am not the first person to note that the United States is a nation of immigrants. I myself am only second generation American for three-fourths of me. My paternal grandmother was actually born here, but the rest of my grandparents were not.

Among my many friends in academic medicine, more than a few were not born in the United States. Most of them are naturalized by now, but if some are not, I wouldn’t know. And wouldn’t care.

The President of the United States, under pressure from his nativist base, has asked Congress to solve the “problem” of the dreamers, young people brought here illegally by their parents and now English-speaking residents of every community in the US. Many, many are in Texas. Texas with over 100,000 dreamers is second only to California.

I understand the president’s insistence that those in the country illegally who commit crimes be deported. I also understand local police officials who stress the need for sanctuary cities if they are to optimize community cooperation and the best policing. If the professionals in law enforcement in the largest cities insist that they not be asked to check the immigration status of all those they stop or who they suspect through improper racial profiling, then that’s good enough for me. We need to prioritize what the police are being asked to do and doing the work of ICE should not be among the tasks of the HPD.

The dreamers are a special case.

The obvious solution is to provide a path to citizenship for all those brought into the country illegally, but not by their own choice. Many do not speak a foreign language. They are English-speaking American kids. They play video games and listen to Taylor Swift on cell phones. They watch Game of Thrones. Give me a break. There must be something more useful for the government to do than to deport all of these people and break up their families. They want to be Americans and they should be welcomed as long as they have committed no crimes.

Perhaps Mr. Trump’s least endearing quality is his pandering to the cameras and to his base. It is now obvious that most of those who voted for Mr. Trump are not crazy right-wing nut jobs. They are Americans who believed that the country’s best days were behind it and did not like that at all. Some Trump voters blamed it on minorities and immigrants, but in fact the world is changing—quickly, and the fact is that a high school education may not provide you with a middle class job any more. It’s sad, but it’s true. And by the way Mr. Trump, the coal industry is not coming back.

There are also a whole lot of people (many I know) who didn’t vote FOR Mr. Trump but voted AGAINST Mrs. Clinton. OK, I get that.

But on this issue—immigration—what is good for the country is obvious. I like Tom Friedman’s idea of stapling a green card to the diploma of every graduate of an American university with an advanced degree.

We need these people when we are competing with nations that have more students in the top 10% of their high school class than we have high school students. We need the best the world can bring us—just like always.

I shudder to think where I would be now if my grandparents had not taken the harrowing journey across the Atlantic and set-up house in New York City and Zanesville, Ohio.

Everything I am and everything I have is because they made that boat ride and were welcomed. We need to keep going. Welcome the dreamers and give them a path to citizenship. It’s the right thing to do—for America and for them.

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