Immigrants: Challenges of ethical assimilation

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President Trump is on target to demand re-negotiating trade and immigration deals. Some have led to large outflows of capital and to loss of jobs.

The president is also on target to protect our borders, but not with a fence. The most effective wall is to keep the mass of foreigners home while having some of them legally emigrate gradually to our land where they can absorb our customs and cultures.

Stemming illegal immigration requires measures beyond the brick and mortar of building a physical wall on our southern border. At Mexico’s expense! How ridiculous is that?

It requires participation on a partnership basis in talks with Mexico, and Central and South American countries, where America yields enormous leverage. In these talks, we look to our own interests, but we do it with participation, not seclusion.

It is a tough nut to crack. Where is the line drawn? It is estimated that in 2016 alone, $69 billion was sent from the U.S.’s foreign workers to people south of our border. Forty percent of this amount went to Mexico. Poorer and less populated counties depend even more on this flow of money. Studies show 20 percent of the GNP of Honduras and El Salvador come from remittances of workers in the United States. Are we as a moral nation going to cut off 20 percent of a country’s GNP? If it comes from illegal immigrants, I believe we have no choice. We cannot ignore this problem. To do so only makes it worse.

I want those two cowboy museums in my hometown to stay open; to keep upcoming generations aware of New Mexico cattlemen and Billy the Kid’s unsavory, yet mesmerizing history. I want a gradual, legal influx of foreigners to take in the history and culture of New Mexico and America.

It is indeed possible. I lived in Santa Fe, N.M., for a while. The Latinos and Native Americans in that city were as “Americanized” as any Anglo living there. Granted, they held on to aspects of their cultural past, as well they should, as it gave them cohesion and pride. But they stood at attention when listening to our national anthem.

In the long run, given fairly recent history of massive illegal immigration, is a dream of cultural and lingual assimilation possible? At this juncture, none of us can know. But consider:

“Immigrants made up roughly 17 percent of the U.S. workforce in 2014, according to Pew Research Center; of those, around two-thirds were in the country legally. Collectively, immigrants made up 45 percent of domestic employees; they also comprised large portions of the workforce in U.S. manufacturing (36 percent), agriculture (33), and accommodation (32). Another Pew study found that without immigrants, the U.S. workforce is expected to decline from 173.2 million in 2015 to 165.6 million in 2035; the workforce is expected to grow to 183.2 million if immigration levels remain steady, according to the report.”

With a wall, physical or legal, who is going to be making hotel beds or mowing our lawns? America opened the gates to massive immigration decades ago. The immigrants are out of the gates and into the pastures and factories of America’s workplaces and societies.

I do not see how this fact can be reversed. But we do know this truth: The preservation of and respect for a nation’s heritage and culture is the glue that binds together the citizens of that nation. When balkanization of a nation occurs, that nation essentially becomes no longer a nation but an assemblage of tribal factions.

The goals of the Trump administration should be:

First, find ways to cut down the flow of massive influxes of immigrants, which I am not confident a giant wall will prevent. Whatever the means, our nation’s borders must be sealed against illegal entry. It is an insult to legal residents.

Second, document the immigrant population for purposes of taxation and accountability.

Third, extract a “cost,” whatever it may be, for breaking our laws.

Then what? Do we deport them and their children? I do not have the answer to this question. I defer it to the citizens of this country who employ them to make beds and mow lawns.

• • •

Uyless and his wife, Holly, reside in Hayden.

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