Is there an immigration crisis at our southern border? Only if you live in a state that has a Republican governor like Texas or Arizona. If you live in New Mexico, with a Democratic governor, there is no immigration crisis.
The crisis on our southern border is a government-created crisis, not an immigration crisis. To understand this, a brief history of the border issue is needed.
Between 1846 and 1848, President James K. Polk provoked a war against Mexico. The result of the war was that the U.S. took half of Mexico. This territory taken included California, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, and part of Texas. The effect was that there were now hundreds of thousands of Mexican citizens living in what would become the United States.
The immigration policy toward Latin America, based on the Monroe Doctrine of 1823, viewed Latin Americans as under U.S. domination. There were few restrictions between 1848 to 1965 that forbade Latin Americans from coming to and living in the United States. This was unlike quotas for Asians and Eastern and Southern Europeans.
That policy changed with the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965. This law put quotas on Latin American immigration for the first time in American history and ended the Bracero Program of Latin Americans coming to the U.S. as guest workers who worked mainly in agricultural jobs. These workers usually went back and forth between Latin America and the U.S.
According Occidental College history professor Jane Hong, “Whole groups of migrants from Mexico and Latin America whose entrance to the U.S. would have been considered legal before 1965 suddenly became illegal.”
To deal with approximately 4 million “illegals”, President Ronald Reagan got Congress to grant amnesty to undocumented immigrants in the Reagan Reform and Control Act of 1986. The reason for the amnesty was that there were simply too many Latinos living and working in this country. From History.com, “… It is a fact that Mexicans have already been immigrating to and living in the U.S. for a very long time. Whether lawmakers choose to consider that reality is another story.”
Latinos, especially Mexicans, now saw free access to their homes in Latin America being closed. They had their families and relatives move to the United States to live, swelling the number of undocumented immigrants to the 11.5 million that we see today. Had there been better planning, we wouldn’t be having the problem we have now.
From the foundation of the U.S. Constitution, states were in charge of immigration, not the national government. This was due to the 10th Amendment, where any right not specifically given to the federal government devolved to the states. The ratification of the 14th Amendment in 1868 granted citizenship to former slaves. The 14th Amendment also granted “equal protection of the law” and the right of due process to all persons living in the U.S. Notice the word is persons, not citizens.
The city of San Francisco passed laws in the 1870s and 1880s that discriminated against Chinese immigrants, not allowing them citizenship. In 1886, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the Yick Wo vs. Hopkins case that non-citizens had the same rights as citizens. That ruling affects all undocumented Latinos as well to our present time.
Here are some of the arguments against undocumented immigrants crossing our southern border (Beau of the Fifth Column: “Let’s talk about the solution to the immigration problem,” April 10, 2019):
“I just want people to follow the law, to go back to their native country and get in line.” For non-immediate family members like married children over 21 years old, or siblings of migrants who are already U.S. citizens, this process can take up to 20 years. How many of you would be willing to wait that long?
“They take American jobs.” This is a very uncapitalistic statement. It’s American citizens wanting the government to act to prevent competition. In most cases, undocumented immigrants take jobs few American would take. Since these immigrants are undocumented, most work very hard to keep a low profile and to avoid coming in contact with the police, knowing the consequence is likely deportation.
If you look at the “crisis on our southern border”, it’s not an immigration problem, it’s a government-created problem that did not exist until after 1965 for Latin Americans. Many Americans who are anti-immigrant and who don’t want immigrants crossing our southern border just don’t understand the history of immigration in this country. But we are a nation ruled by law, not by emotions. It’s time more of us come to understand that truth. The “crisis on our southern border” is really business as usual, not a crisis at all.