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Walter Williams: Immigration lies & hypocrisy

| Friday, Feb. 9, 2018, 8:57 p.m.
President Donald Trump takes the cap off a pen before signing executive order for immigration actions to build border wall during a visit to the Homeland Security Department in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2017.
President Donald Trump takes the cap off a pen before signing executive order for immigration actions to build border wall during a visit to the Homeland Security Department in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2017.

President Donald Trump reportedly asked why the U.S. is “having all these people from (expletive)hole countries come here.” I think he could have used better language, but it's a question that should be asked and answered.

I have a few questions for my fellow Americans. How many Norwegians have illegally entered our nation, committed crimes and burdened our prison and welfare systems? I might ask the same question about Finns, Swedes, Welsh, Icelanders, Greenlanders and New Zealanders.

The bulk of our immigration problem is with people who enter our country criminally from Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, Africa and the Middle East. It's illegal immigrants from those countries who have committed crimes and burdened our criminal justice and welfare systems. A large number of immigrants here illegally — perhaps the majority are law-abiding in other respects — have fled oppressive, brutal and corrupt regimes to seek a better life in America.

In the debate about illegal immigration, there are questions that are not explicitly asked but can be answered with a straight “yes” or “no”: Does everyone in the world have a right to live in the U.S.? Do Americans have a right to decide who may enter our country and under what conditions? Should we permit foreigners landing at our airports to ignore U.S. border-control laws just as some ignore our laws at our southern border?

One would be deemed an idiot for saying that everyone in the world has a right to live in our country, that Americans don't have a right to decide who lives in our country and that foreigners landing at our airports have a right to just ignore U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents.

Immigration today is different from immigration of yesteryear. People in the 19th and early 20th centuries came here to learn our language and customs and become Americans. There was a guarantee that immigrants came here to work, because there was no welfare system — they worked, begged or starved. Today, there is no such assurance. Because of our welfare state, immigrants can come here and live off taxpaying Americans.

Another difference is that today, American students are taught multiculturalism — that one culture is no better or worse than another. To believe otherwise is criticized as Eurocentrism at best, racism at worst. As a result, some immigrant groups seek to bring to our country cultural values whose failures have led to poverty, corruption and human-rights violations in their home countries that caused them to flee.

As the fallout from Trump's indelicate remarks demonstrates, too many Americans are afraid and unwilling to ask which immigrant groups have become a burden to our nation and which have made a contribution to its greatness.

We should not fall prey to people who criticize efforts to combat illegal immigration and pompously say, “We're a nation of immigrants!” The debate is not over immigration. The debate is over illegal immigration.

My sentiments on immigrants here legally who want to become Americans are expressed by Emma Lazarus' poem “The New Colossus,” which is on a plaque inside the Statue of Liberty and says in part, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

Walter Williams is a professor of economics at George Mason University.

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