With men and women dying in the armed services of our country every day, the question of national community loomed large for me this Memorial Day.
Did all those who died in foreign lands this last year, as well as in America near our own borders, accept the possibility of the supreme sacrifice for just some vague concept of a country? For virtually open borders? For a government that only some times puts its citizens' interests ahead of those of citizens of other countries?
Or was it imperative for them to believe that they were fighting for a well-defined national community that is dedicated to caring for its own -- especially for its most vulnerable?
If they did believe that, they had to overlook a quarter century of immigration policies severely undermining the very nature of national community in the United States.
Let me hasten to say that I respect those of you who, when called, have chosen to serve your country as conscientious objectors in pacifist roles. I considered doing that myself during Vietnam, but in the end accepted the draft. For all of you who did the same or volunteered during our nation's wars, I ask you whether you would have answered the call the same -- donned the uniform and taken up arms -- if you had not believed that the government doing the calling was dedicated to the service of a national community that was committed first to protection of its own members, especially those in your own families and neighborhoods.
Immigration Favors Affluent Americans & Foreign Workers Over Vulnerable Americans
Recent immigration policies have suggested that our federal government is devaluing the national community. Those policies consistently favor the more affluent members of our country who desire to give U.S. jobs and benefits to citizens of other countries in preference over citizens of our own country, often those Americans with the fewest resources.
The primary problem with recent immigration policies is not the character or characteristics of individual immigrants (many of whom have been and are serving our country nobly in the armed services). Rather, the problem is the high numbers and how they affect those people born or naturalized under the care of our national community.
In our first two centuries (1776-1976), America sustained by far the largest flow of immigrants in world history, averaging around 250,000 a year (with significant fluctuations along the way). Interestingly in the 1950s and 1960s when the country had no more frontiers and was largely settled and mature with far less physical capacity to handle new flows, immigration was still running at the very high 250,000 level.
However since 1990, authorized immigration quotas have exploded still higher and have filled the nation's communities with more than 1,000,000 immigrants a year (not counting the millions of illegal immigrants allowed during that time).
The fourfold increase in legal immigration has overwhelmed many of the institutions, infrastructures and natural resources in and around communities across the nation.
Rejection of National Community Clearest In Abandonment of Black Men
There are many measures of the unfairness created by this flow but perhaps none more compelling than the plight of the nearly 40% of Black American men who do not have a job. Most of them desperately need entry-level and stepping-stone jobs, and they need pay, benefits and recruitment capable of pulling them into those jobs. As long as the federal government provides highly energetic, highly motivated foreign workers, though, it appears our non-employed American descendants of slavery and Jim Crow discrimination will remain largely abandoned by the economy and their country, left to operate outside the mainstream of society.
The abandonment, of course, is much wider than race. Americans of all ethnicities who work in the occupations where immigrants tend to settle suffer official unemployment rates of double – and more – that of the general population.
The less-affluent members of our national community whose neighborhoods have the most inadequate school systems also tend to shoulder most of the burden of school overcrowding and language/cultural challenges from high concentrations of immigrant settlement.
National Community Is Forced To Endure Additions Of Unrequested Millions
And Americans of every class and calling – who for decades have told pollsters they object to policies that create rampant population growth, sprawl, congestion and loss of natural habitat and mobility – are forced by the immigration flow to endure the consequences of the biggest population boom in our history. Nearly all of present population growth is now a result of new immigration and births to the immigrant population.
Census data projections show that if immigration levels remain this high, Americans will have to adjust from the present 300 million population to absorb another 150 million by mid-century. The United States won World War II with less than 150 million population. We've added another 150 million since then, and will do it again by mid-century unless Congress changes the immigration numbers.
Do uniformed men and women fight and die for this watered down of a concept of national community, where the vast majority of members must accept the deteriorations in quality of life for the sake of a privileged few?
My Father's Commitment To His Fallen Friends
I think about this often when I remember my last walk with my father. He had recently returned from a triumphant week of celebration of the opening of the World War II Memorial. The next day, he would enter the hospital for a surgery that ended up killing him. He chose for us to walk around the courthouse square of our little home town.
We paused at a monument that he had promoted that contained the names of locals who had died in the wars of the 20th century. He motioned toward the names of his boyhood friends who had entered WWII along with him. He said he had declared as each of them had been killed that he would ensure that their sacrifice would never be forgotten as long as he lived, and he had been true to that promise every Veterans Day and Memorial Day, high school assemblies and countless other patriotic acts for more than half a century.
But my father's promise in actuality was more than just remembering the sacrifice. It was making sure that their supreme sacrifice was actually worth something. They did not die for a war or even for an idea. They certainly did not die for open borders, rewards for illegal immigration and a society in which the disparity between the working classes and the intellectual classes would widen into a chasm. No, I feel certain that they were willing to die for their family, friends, locality and for a national community which, in one way or another, they assumed would care for their descendants who survived.
The boys who did not come back with my father after WWII were very much like the boys who did not come back with me after the Vietnam War -- they were the sons of farmers, small merchants and factory workers. They were of the same class and stock so seriously threatened today by careless -- perhaps callous -- immigration policies.
At some point, the victims of our immigration policies may cease to answer any kind of call to serve a national community that has less and less meaning. They may rebel. We can hope they do so through a political movement to press elected officials to change the policies and not by fully abandoning the society that has already abandoned them.
Updated: Mon, May 15th 2017 @ 4:33pm EDT