Straight talk on immigration from a Republican statesman

In Senator John McCain’s book “The Restless Wave,” he devotes some time to the subject of immigration. Rather than use my words, I will borrow from his straight talk.

“There are politicians today who would have Americans believe that illegal immigration is one of the worst scourges afflicting the country. Some who espouse that nonsense believe it to be true. Their opinions were formed in restricted information loops as they communicate mostly or exclusively with people who believe the same….Decent, hardworking people who mean no harm are blamed for crime, unemployment, failing schools, and various other ills, and become in the eyes of many the objects of hate and  fear.”

McCain goes on to debunk four claims, from a vantage point of a state that has a significant level of immigrant population. Per McCain, “Here’s is a little straight talk:”

“First, there are eleven to twelve million immigrants, give or take, residing in this country without permission. Most of them are never going to leave, and there really isn’t much we can do about it or should we want to do about it….Two-thirds of the adult unauthorized immigrants have been here for at least a decade. They’re integrated into the fabric of our communities…

Second, the great majority of unauthorized immigrants came here to find work and raise their families, like most immigrants have throughout our history. They are not rapists, killers, and drug dealers of fevered imaginations on the Right….They’re decent people working hard to make better lives….

Third, since 2007 most immigrants who come here without permission simply outstay their visas. They don’t cross the border illegally. And since the Great Recession, net illegal immigration has been flat or negative as more immigrants voluntarily returned to their native countries as jobs were scarce. A wall along the southern border isn’t going to solve the problem….

Fourth, unauthorized immigrants aren’t depriving millions of native-born Americans of employment. Most jobs taken by immigrants are low-paying, and have the hardest conditions. Their employers have trouble filling payrolls. Many jobs are seasonal or otherwise irregular employment. Unauthorized immigrants are not sucking up all the blue-collar jobs in the country as their most hyperbolic antagonists insist.”

I wanted to share with you McCain’s words as they directly contradict those espoused by the President and those who have gone along with that argument. This argument is based on fear and one of the talents of the President is he knows what sells. Yet, that does not make it right.

We need thoughtful discussion around our immigration issues. We need to remember our ideals. We also need to use data and analysis. One data point is immigration is accretive (additive) to our economy. Another data point is our nation is one of immigrants. Yet, another data point is our country has off and on turned the spigot slower on immigration and then opened it up again. Often the nozzle was closed with fear as a selling tool.

McCain cited a speech from President Ronald Reagan. Paraphrasing it, when people immigrate to another country, they do not become nationalists of that country, although they become citizens. Yet, when they come to America, they become Americans. We are the melting pot of the world. These words are found on the Statue of Liberty, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

Fear may sell, but it does not solve problems very well. Why? Because fear is often based in large part on a lie. In my view, we should heed the words of a statesman like Senator John McCain, who is a hero in my book. Whether one agrees with McCain or not, I find he speaks plainly and from his heart.

18 thoughts on “Straight talk on immigration from a Republican statesman

  1. Did you catch 45 telling PM May that immigration was bad. Interesting that the Royal Family actually can count at least 2 off the top of my head, Meagan Markle of course and Prince Philip who was actually born in Greece and had to become a naturalized citizen when he married.

    • Lindi, like the US, the UK was rebuilt on immigration after the war. And, you are right, even the royal family married with immigrants to be safer and expand their sphere of influence. The offensive part was his implication immigrants were bad. They have made America a great nation, until now. Now, we are more of a pariah in the world. Keith

  2. Nice to read these words from McCain. I don’t agree with him on many things – particularly his choice for a VP a few years ago – but moderation and clear thinking is rare in the Republican Party these days. I’d also argue that Republicans are so strident about anti-immigration (as they are about voter ID laws that adversely affect blacks and Latinos) because most immigrants eventually lean Democratic. It’s in the GOP’s political interest to exclude these folks from American life.

    • Pete, he speaks to the need for his party to reach out better to those demographic groups. The current leader would rather kick those folks out of the country, at least per his actions. Civil liberties seem to count more for those who look like him.

      I don’t agree with McCain on a number of issues, but did consider voting for him as well as Obama until he picked a VP candidate that brought his age into question. His best chance was in 2000, but he was painted wrongly in SC with having fathered a Black child out of wedlock, when he and his wife had adopted a Hindu girl. That was politics at its worst.

      Thanks for your comment. Keith

      • No offense, Keith… I like your posts… but I think you’re way too focused on that one man (although it’s easy to do, considering the circumstances). Instead of McCain’s party reaching out “better,” how about just “reach out”? At this point, there’s absolutely no attempt. It’s not just Trump, it’s the entire GOP, which has molded itself into the party of white status quo.

        I care nothing about McCain’s age. I’m more concerned about his judgement and policies. In 2008, he chose a VP candidate who represents the absolute worst element in politics and society. Not sure what he was thinking, other than a pretty face would help his chances. On top of that, 90 percent of his Senate votes supported the domestic and foreign policies of Bush. No vote for McCain from me, then or now, despite his stance on immigration. McCain and the GOP helped create the monster of Donald Trump.

      • Pete, thanks for your comment and I appreciate your pushback in a civil manner. We need more of that. My main purpose for choosing “Republican” in my title rather than “American,” is I want Republicans to open this blog up and read it. They need to see that one of them raises issue with fearmongering.

        I do find the party had lost its way well before Trump. I left in 2006 for three principal reasons – stance on climate change, unhealthy embrace of evangelicals and the NRA and the tendency to make things up using its captive pseudo-news sources. Both sides exaggerate and even lie, but it is not a normal distribution, as I find the GOP tends to politic off a foundation of untruths moreso than the Dems.

        As for McCain, he is more hawkish than I prefer, but usually he is for using force to help a cause, like intervening in Syria or Libya to avoid the turmoil that resulted. He usually speaks from experience of visiting and talking to people. With that said, I would have still voted for Obama even had he picked a better VP candidate.

        I am fiscally conservative and socially progressive, which is why I am an Independent voter. But, to be frank, the GOP gave up on fiscal conservatism with its tax law change. Keith

      • All well said. I guess my issue is that so many people are using so much energy on Trump. Which is, understandably, easy to do. But he’s merely the boil that’s erupted on the skin. Many years went into creating him, and the Republican Party (as you eloquently said, being a former “insider”) is largely responsible. But too many people (media, bloggers, your average voter, etc.) seem coy about assigning blame. Part of it, I think, is that the mainstream news media bends over backwards to appear objective. Conservatives have already painted establishment media as a vast liberal conspiracy, and the media goes to great lengths not to point a finger at the Republican Party, for fear of a backlash. The other part (I think) is that the rest of us are afraid to offend our family and friends. You can criticize government (it’s our favorite pastime), you can criticize individual politicians, but god forbid you criticize a political party. But the reason we HAVE parties is that they differ on policy, often radically, and in many cases their BEHAVIOR differs. Some are more dangerous than others. (We saw that happen in Germany in the ’30s.) And it appears we both agree that the GOP has moved into dangerous la-la land on things like climate change, guns, and their anti-intellectualism and pro-evangelicism, And voters with ‘R’s after their names swallow all this shit. Hence…Trump.

        Liberals and Democrats can’t change things, because they’re outsiders and are “the enemy.” The change needs to come from moderate, clear-thinking Republicans who will pull their party back from the fringe. McCain is doing a little, and I’m grateful to him. (He’s a hero to me not for his politics, but for fighting cancer.) But I wish he’d have begun his efforts a long time ago.

        Thanks, and enjoyed the conversation.

      • Pete, well said. The GOP has lost its way, especially when bulwarks like George Will, Eric Ericson, David Brooks, etc. have left the party or question its veracity. Only 34% of Republicans believe the intelligence agencies that Russia. How can a group tout the rule of law and then not believe the lawmakers? Keith

  3. Good post, Keith. I admire John McCain, although, if I was an American voter, I would be a Democrat or a Progressive. I’m not sure why many conservative thinking people buy this ‘immigration is evil’ garbage. The only non-immigrants among us are the North American indigenous peoples. However, fear-mongers like Trump and his enablers don’t care about the truth.

    • John, well said. I won’t repeat my second comment to Pete, but that gives more detail about why I chose my title and where I stand on things. Keith

  4. Thanks for the Post Keith. Today is the 16th and the American President has surrendered his country to a Russian Tyrant. I appreciate Senator McCain’s words. I think McCain genuinely wants to do the right thing, and I hope to God the Republican Party takes action to protect the American People from a clear threat to our National Security.

    • Rob, yesterday’s press conference with Putin was unbelievable. I had low expectations for Trump, but this was an unmitigated disaster. For those who had some doubt about his allegiance to Russia, he put that to rest. I have believed all along that Trump is beholden to Russia, but I have little doubt now. Keith

      • You know Kieth, at some point Americans will see Russia’s ‘meddling’ as a more serious act of war.

        Weaponised disinformation is a lethal weapon; it can subvert the government of the most powerful nation in the World in less than two years and place a corrupt narcissist in the office of President.

      • Rob, well described. I must confess it has happened even more quickly than I imagined. My fear with his win is he would make America a pariah in the world. Like Trump, our country is in the middle of every argument. Keith

  5. Note to Readers: A response to two different friends who raised the issue that we are a nation of laws saying we should enforce them.

    “This issue needs to be discussed without the hyperbole. It is blown way out of proportion and any logical attempt to address gets waylaid. The Senate passed a bipartisan bill in 2013 that Boehner refused to consider after saying he would. Earlier efforts were waylaid as well, so both parties are at fault.

    We must address this through a data driven, thoughtful lens. Right now, it is a based on fear. To answer your question, I would rather make a path to citizenship to those who have been here awhile.

    That may not be the answer you want, but kicking eleven million people out of the country would be harmful to our economy and costly. Our churches want to work this out as well, as they remember we are not as cold hearted as we have become under this regime. Dealing with immigration in a more thoughtful manner used to be a tenet of the Republican Party.

  6. Dear Keith,

    I used to just think that President Trump was a horse’s rear end who was a racist, a Xenophobe, a misogynist, a bully and a liar-in-chief. But now I am looking at everything he is doing from the prism of him being a Russian asset.

    Everything he has been saying and doing would fit in with the Russian President Putin’s goals.

    He is the #1 clear and present danger to US National Security interests.

    He has used immigrants as the bogeyman for his base. From my point of view he is taking a page out of President Putin’s book.

    Immigration is what makes this country great.

    Hugs, Gronda

    • Gronda, I think he is both. He has been all of the above before he ran for office. I think he is financially beholden to Russia. And, some of that money may not play well, if known. Or it could be as simple as loan forgiveness. Who knows?

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