"Who Are We?" was the title of an important, and in some quarters, controversial book by the late Harvard political scientist Samuel P. Huntington. Part of the answer to the title question is that this country was settled and built by those who came here from elsewhere. That iconic self-description of America as a "nation of immigrants" was and remains true ("true but only partially true," as Huntington writes).
Americans are justifiably proud that their country is and continues to be seen as a place in which a better life is possible. In that fact is a degree of validation of their country and its cultural, economic, and political premises. Why else would so many millions of people chose to give up their familiar surroundings to struggle to become part of a new homeland and to live a new and different kind of life?
However, Americans overwhelmingly want immigration to this country to reflect their preferences for moderation in the number of immigrants we admit, ensure that those who come here are legally entitled to do so, and that the country's legal, political, and cultural organizations and institutions follow and support the rule of law, as well as encouraging the assimilation of new immigrants into the American national community and culture.
The fundamental crisis of American immigration policy is that ordinary Americans can no longer count on these underlying foundations of support for immigration.
The trite meme of our current immigration debate is that the "system is broken." That phrase, in reality, means a number of different things. However, its major purpose, always said without specifics, is to imbue the immigration debate with the premise that major "comprehensive" reform is needed.
We now have a system in place in which immigrant advocates and some members of Congress in the president's party call on him to ignore immigration enforcement, and he responds that he can't really do that, even as he exempts multiple groups of illegal migrants from the consequences of their acts through expanding circles of enforcement discretion.
We have a government that loses over $4 billion every year to illegal aliens who gain access to benefits to which they are not entitled in just one government program, and efforts to stop this hemorrhaging are resisted by members of the president's party in the Senate.
We have a political system in which illegal aliens claim a right to be in this country and be legalized and break the law in order to press their claims. It is ironic and paradoxical, but uncommented upon, that those who have broken the law coming into the county without authorization, break it again to obtain an amnesty for their prior lawbreaking.
And we have an immigration service a that a judge has found apparently feels that it is its responsibility to deliver illegal migrant children to their illegal migrant parents when the coyotes that have been paid thousands of dollars to get them across the border are caught. The director of ICE (has characterized this policy as "appropriate" and "legal."
In these and myriad other ways, the current immigration system and how it operates helps to destroy the fabric of trust that must exist between a people and its government in a democracy.