Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

James Fallows: Why the Republican Party Will Come to Regret Rolling Back DACA

leave a comment »

James Fallows writes in the Atlantic:

I’ve followed the politics and reality of immigration for a long time. In the mid-1980s, I traveled around the country for several months on a big reporting project for The Atlantic about that era’s new migrants. I went and learned about the Haitians and Cubans of South Florida, the Vietnamese of Arkansas and the Gulf Coast, the Central Americans of Houston, the Hmong of Fresno, the Mexicans of the greater Southwest, the Puerto Ricans and Dominicans of greater New York, the Lebanese of Detroit—and the native-born members of the communities they were changing.

What I found and argued then was that the process of short-term disruption and longer-term adaptation through which the U.S. opened itself to immigration still prevailed.

That is, immigration has always been disruptive, from the time of the Germans and Irish in the mid-1800s to the groups I was seeing a century-plus later, or their counterparts today. And periodically this disruption led to political and legal responses that looked bad (and racially driven) in retrospect, from the Chinese Exclusion Act of the 1850s to the nativist restrictions that essentially shut down most immigration for almost a generation after World War I.

Before that war, the U.S. was open to a surge of immigrants from eastern and southern Europe. Greeks, Italians, and Poles; Russians and Serbs; Swedes and Danes; Jews, Turks, and Arabs, plus others arrived, in addition to the ongoing flow of English, Irish, and Germans. All of my wife’s forebears came as children from Bohemia in this turn-of-the-century wave; so did one of my grandmothers, from Germany. “Race-decline” theories gained enormous intellectual and political traction in response, through popular books like The Passing of the Great Race and articles in this very magazine during its nativist phase a century ago. The race-war arguments were an important part of the “national origins” immigration system that prevailed from the 1920s through the early 1960s, with a strong preference for immigrants from Western Europe and tight limits on those from anywhere else.

But—I argued 30 years ago in The Atlantic, and have come to believe more strongly over the years—the United States differed from most other societies in its more powerful absorptive ability, and the resulting imperfectly open society enjoyed powerful economic, cultural, creative, diplomatic, actuarial, and simple human benefits from becoming a nation-of-nations.

So that’s my starting point. E pluribus unum is a real thing, and it is thefundamental American advantage.

Now we have an American president fobbing off onto his attorney general the task of announcing an end to the DACA program. Some 800,000 people who have mainly grown up in the United States may ultimately face expulsion. One of those 800,000 is a well-liked, well-educated, and widely respected young municipal official in Dodge City, Kansas, named Ernestor de la Rosa. I wrote about him last year. The idea of forcing him out of the country where he has grown up, thrived, and made an important mark will seem crazy in retrospect and is just plain cruel now.

* * *

But you’d expect me to say that. I’ll try to separate my opinion that this is a needless and destructive decision from my observation of how it fits in the flow of U.S. handling of such issues. To take the players and issues in order:

Jeff Sessions

In a way, he is the most honorable participant in this entire spectacle. The decision he announced is in total, consistent harmony with his long career in public life. He announced the DACA decision in language that was either consciously crafted or instinctively chosen to appeal to an anti-immigrant (and anti-Obama) base. Sessions went out of his way to call DACA entrants like Ernestor de la Rosa “illegal immigrants” who were here because of an “unconstitutional” overreach by Obama. On the merits of the “unconstitutional” claim, please check out this rebuttal by Ian Millhiser. Still, there’s no doubt that Sessions believes what he is saying and considers this a good day for him, his people, and the causes to which he has devoted his life.

Donald Trump

I won’t call him the least honorable participant, since there’s such competition for that title. But in leaving this announcement to the same attorney general he was trying to ridicule into quitting only six weeks ago, a man who usually prefers center stage was acting out of character, to say the least. Was he suddenly camera-shy because he had so often promised not to do what Sessions just announced? Was he edging toward what we’ve come to know as the “Jared and Ivanka hand-wring” posture, in which he wants it known that he is “troubled” by the very step that his administration is about to take? Was he unclear (as the latest New York Times account suggests) about what this new policy would actually mean? . . .

Continue reading. Later in the column is a very interesting history of how the Dream Act came about and the tradeoffs involved.

Written by Leisureguy

5 September 2017 at 4:51 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.