The Global Elite and the Rest of Us: On Trump and Immigration

[Written in response to a Facebook query from a Latino friend, Deacon Nicolas De la Cruz, who asked how to weigh Trump's anti-immigrant demagoguery versus voting pro-life.]

This is a crucial matter you bring up, and I'm grateful that you've done so. I am very clearly on record supporting a "liberal" immigration policy. I am not shy about the word amnesty. So, I'm firmly with the Reagan/Bush/Rubio wing of the Republican Party, which earns me disapprobation in many sectors of the right. Obviously, enthusiastic Trump supporters and I disagree on this. I will admit I have not had enough patience with the restrictionists in the past. I have had to learn, as we all have to learn, what is behind so many good people's enthusiastic embrace of a horrible man. Well, we learn nothing by impugning the intelligence and goodwill of Trump supporters. We only show our own lack of intelligence and goodwill in doing so. This is my new political mantra: THERE ARE REASONS. There are reasons people will vote for Hillary. There are reasons people will vote for Trump. There are reasons people will vote for neither. Civility requires recognizing the rationality of those who disagree with us, and a willingness to understand what's going on. And that is the great and humble and necessary thing you have done here, Nicolas. It's the only way forward.

Peggy Noonan has done essential work on this. I owe her a lot; we all do. She and I come from different sides of the immigration debate, but she has conducted her analyses this election cycle with such acuity that she has made herself indispensable if one is interested in understanding America right now. This is the breakthrough piece: react-text: 838 /react-text

I admired Chancellor Merkel for the deeply Christian hospitality she extended to the wave of refugees. But then came Cologne. The immigration situation is different for the U.S., but not what Noonan points out about who bears the cost of hospitality: 

'Nothing in their lives [those of the protected class] will get worse. The challenge of integrating different cultures, negotiating daily tensions, dealing with crime and extremism and fearfulness on the street—that was put on those with comparatively little, whom I’ve called the unprotected. They were left to struggle, not gradually and over the years but suddenly and in an air of ongoing crisis that shows no signs of ending—because nobody cares about them enough to stop it.

'The powerful show no particular sign of worrying about any of this. When the working and middle class pushed back in shocked indignation, the people on top called them “xenophobic,” “narrow-minded,” “racist.” The detached, who made the decisions and bore none of the costs, got to be called “humanist,” “compassionate,” and “hero of human rights.”'

And this is true. Again, the immigration situation in America is VERY different. The vast majority of Latino immigrants are Catholic, so the profound issues of large-scale Islamic integration are not in play. We are all Westerners, to begin with. 

However, and I say this as a man who still wants to see a "liberal" immigration policy, there are always costs to integrating a new community. And the protected class of this nation simply does not bear them. I am the oddball, a man belonging to the unprotected class who wants more immigrants. But I will not judge the fellow members of my class as racists simply because they bear costs others who share my immigration opinions don't bear. Here's my proposal on immigration: let's build immigrant and refugee housing in Wellesley and Norwood and Hingham. I'd still be all for the "liberal" policy. How many of the protected would continue to stand with me?

Trump's immigrant-baiting is execrable. There is no defense for it. None. At. All. But I guarantee you the vast majority of his supporters are not racists. They are people barely scraping by in life. They are literally despised by the governing elite, when they aren't simply forgotten. They're not scapegoating immigrants. They're pointing out to the elites: "This is your policy. Assume the real costs of that policy. You run this country: factor us in." And with that position, I am in full agreement.

This all dovetails with what has been revealed in Clinton campaign chair John Podesta's emails: react-text: 862 /react-text . This split between the protected and unprotected means the end of the republic, if it isn't checked. Forcing the elites to shut up and listen to the people for once: that is what Trump represents for people. (I still say he's the strangest standard bearer for that good cause, as he belongs to the protected class just as profoundly as does Clinton. Be that as it may.)

Nicolas, let me reiterate. I'm an amnesty guy. I want the door open as wide as reasonably possible. Other than who bears the cost of that policy, which should be those most capable of bearing that cost, the only question in my mind is how to infuse new populations with the American ethos. The problem there, though, isn't that new immigrants are resistant. The problem is that the American ethos is everywhere in abeyance. THAT is the real limit on immigration. If we do not have the confidence to communicate the grandeur of American ideals and Western civilization and liberal democracy, then we cannot responsibly open our borders. But that problem is not a Latino problem. That problem is an American problem, above all, a problem of American education. This cheap cosmopolitanism of the protected class being peddled in classrooms is at war with the genuine cosmopolitanism of America, which is coincident with patriotism. That is the precise beauty of this country, the substance of American exceptionalism.

My devotion to immigration has everything to do with my Catholicism, yes. But it also has everything to do with what I know and love about America. I still believe we are the shining city on the hill. 

I was born in Taiwan, of a Taiwanese mother. Though born American, I am most certainly an immigrant too. And I will not see the door closed behind me. Everyone who agrees with me that America is enriched and strengthened by immigration, NEEDS to understand what's going on in America, especially among the supporters of Trump.