Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That wants it down.
As I explained in a piece about a year ago, immigration was effectively unregulated until the 1920s, when laws were adopted setting national origin quotas in a way that would gradually return the ethnic balance to what it had been about the time of the Civil War, thereby sharply limiting immigration from southern and eastern Europe and elsewhere in the world. That law was then replaced in 1965 by a new measure that did away with the national quotas and prioritized other criteria such as education, having a sponsor, or having a job. It was not predicted at the time, but the massive increase in immigration from Latin America, South Asia and other Third World countries dates from this change in immigration law.
This conservative agenda on immigration is part and parcel of the broader right-wing project of dismantling as much as possible of the New Deal and Great Society reforms of the 1930s and 1960s.
Liberals typically don’t remember this, but conservatives do. They see all these racial and cultural “others” as diluting the essence of America (which is, implicitly, a society where whites of western European ancestry are in charge, blacks know their place, and other racial and ethnic minorities are tiny parts of the population.
This conservative agenda on immigration is part and parcel of the broader right-wing project of dismantling as much as possible of the New Deal and Great Society reforms of the 1930s and 1960s. From Nixon, and especially Reagan to Trump, this is what is behind each major proposal.
Immigration has returned to center-stage because Trump found his simple “Build the Wall!” refrain resonated with his white working class base. So while last year he was open to a comprehensive immigration reform as long as The Wall was part of it, he’s now boiled it all down to just The Wall, and boiled his base down to the hardest of the hard core on this issue.
The thing is, any fool can see that a wall by itself is not going to stop all these “undesirables” from “s__thole countries” from coming north. Ways will be found. The conditions they flee will still drive them on. We need to see that economic misery, crime and tyranny in Latin America and elsewhere in the world are results of US and European imperial policies over a century or more that have locked these countries into underdevelopment. If we want to stop Guatemalans from coming to the US, if the French was to stop the Senegalese and the British the Nigerians, the former imperial powers need to make the home countries as attractive as the former metropoles.
Or, as I suggested in July,
It would be even simpler and even cheaper to simply register the migrants, and pay them to stay home. Most of these people are used to surviving on under $1000 per person per year. Issue them an ID card and send them a monthly check to their home communities. Surely they’d rather stay home in the bosom of their families if they could have an adequate income.
[dc]B[/dc]ut, Trump would say, that would be wrong. And besides, he cherishes The Wall so he can keep riling up the base.