USA Today Offers Four Unvarnished Different Viewpoints on Immigration

The antidote to what 'Mr. Bean' called a 'creeping culture of censoriousness'

By Andrew R. Arthur on August 17, 2020

On Friday, August 14, USA Today did something interesting, and laudable: It offered four different viewpoints on immigration, unvarnished and without comment. I disagree with two of them (and one is fine as far as it goes, but really doesn't offer any solutions). But the paper's effort should not go overlooked in an age when the media seems focused on little more than presenting tendentious screeds packaged as "news" on what is likely the most important issue for our country's future. And when powerful forces seek to silence debate on it.

To the paper's credit, its editorial pages usually attempt (italicized for a reason) to offer differing perspectives on major issues. My opinions have been published therein as an "opposing view". Note that mine was an "opposing view" because the outlet's editorial board had their own: logically from their perspective the more reasonable one, because I was one pundit against their conventional wisdom. But at least they tried.

The opinions offered on Friday were from Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), Rep. Dean Phillips (D-Minn.), Peter Boogaard of, and Mike Howell from the Heritage Foundation. In the interest of full disclosure, Howell was one of my staffers at the House Oversight Committee's National Security Subcommittee under then-Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) — and, not surprisingly, his is the perspective with which I agree the most.

Rep. Upton is not known as an immigration hardliner. He has received a grade of "C" from NumbersUSA for his immigration-reduction efforts in the current Congress, consistent with that organization's assessment of his long career (17 terms) in the Lower Chamber. That said, however, he is generally considered a reasoned and thoughtful member, and is well liked on the Hill.

Rep. Phillips (who was apparently once a gelato entrepreneur), on the other hand, is (according to his campaign website) a big amnesty proponent who prefers ineffective drones to border barriers and thinks five years (or three) is too long for a green card holder to wait for citizenship — for reasons he never explains.

He also implies that, while "undocumented" immigrant criminals should be deported, aliens without status should not (he also implicitly supports sanctuary jurisdictions, so it is not clear how exactly ICE will deport illegal criminals).

That Boogaard is the communications director for is about all that you need to know about his perspective. The organization (backed by many of the biggest tech titans in the world) thirsts for amnesty and opposes most of the president's major immigration proposals (public charge, RAISE Act, and limits on H-1B visas, for starters).

Howell is the outlier in the group. He is the "government relations liaison to the executive branch" at the Heritage Foundation. He opposes DACA and sanctuary cities, and supports the public charge rule (again, for starters).

The makeup of the USA Today piece reminds me of a panel at a House committee hearing. The general rule in the People's House is that the majority gets three witnesses and the minority gets one, although recently Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee took to stacking the deck more in their favor — which limits elbow room at the table, if nothing else.

There are no ad hominem attacks in USA Today on the participants (unlike the attacks on myself and others in congressional hearings, from the usual no-borders radicals who will go unnamed). The perspectives are offered in a straightforward manner, without the paper's direct response.

This is a refreshing antidote from the recent "cancel culture" that has stifled debate from those whose views contradict the soi-disant intelligentsia and major media outlets (same-same) — a trend in which the Center has itself been a target. Lest you think that cancel culture is not a real thing, the first link in this paragraph is to, meaning that the concept has entered the lexicon (and therefore, the zeitgeist) sufficiently enough to be recognized.

Why has the Center been a target? Not because we as individuals or a collective are bad, evil, biased, or wrong (even though others may premise their designations on such claims). But because we offer a different point of view on a contentious subject, which, as I noted before, is "likely the most important issue for our country's future".

You don't have to trust me on this latter point. Here is what the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit recently had to say:

Immigration is a complex and controversial topic that arouses intense emotions on the part of many. On the one hand, immigration is indispensable to cultural diversity and national renewal, an economic engine that can serve to rejuvenate an aging workforce and to fulfill critical societal needs. On the other hand, it can in unrestricted numbers overwhelm the nation's capacity for assimilation and, if unlawful, undermine an indispensable sense of national sovereignty and a commitment to the rule of law.

In other words, today's immigration policy decides not only what our country is, but more importantly what it will be. For that reason, free debate on the subject is critical to our political hygiene. But, as cancel culture has shown, free debate — the bedrock of our Republic and therefore guaranteed by the First Amendment — is under intense fire, while self-censorship (or worse — forced speech) is becoming more and more the norm.

Again, you don't have to take my word for it, at least on the first point. Listen to what British actor Rowan Atkinson (that's right — "Mr. Bean") said in October 2012 in opposition to then-section 5 of the UK Public Order Act, during an address where he championed the "uncomfortable voices of dissent" and assailed the "creeping culture of censoriousness".

He could have made those statements yesterday and they would still have been as relevant, if not more so. More's the pity.

And here is the actual except from then-President Obama before the UN General Assembly in September 2012 that Atkinson referenced in his statement:

Americans have fought and died around the globe to protect the right of all people to express their views, even views that we profoundly disagree with. ... We do so because in a diverse society, efforts to restrict speech can quickly become a tool to silence critics and oppress minorities. [Emphasis added.]

I hope that the former president reiterates these themes soon — not simply to members of his own party, but for the nation as a whole. He has been pretty quiet on the topic recently (and his administration often failed to live up to his own soaring rhetoric).

In the meantime, let's hope that there can be more fulsome and candid discussions about immigration like the ones in USA Today. We know what Rowan Atkinson would say.