Of Immigration and S—hole Countries

Disclaimer: In the following essay a vulgar term, attributed to president Trump, is used once to frame the discussion.  If a coarse word offends you or you think it inappropriate for a Christian writer to use such words, please close the article now.

By Jonathon Clay de Hale

The news cycles so fast these days that president Trump’s alleged denigration of Haiti and Africa using a repugnant term is already fading from view. But since the topic of immigration is front and center again, it’s worth pausing for a moment to think through the gist of his comment.

According to reports, during negotiations over extending DACA, Trump questioned why we were bringing in people from Haiti, El Salvador and African countries rather than from places like Norway, describing the former as “shithole countries.” If true, believers should reject such language in the first instance; Scripture clearly denounces any form of unwholesome talk or profane speech (Ephesians 4:29; 5:4).

Predictably, however, open border, pro-amnesty Democrats (and some of their Republican allies) immediately denounced the term—and president Trump—as racist.

That is, of course, one way to interpret what he said. The majority of the people in the countries he maligned are black and brown, and the majority of people in Norway are white. If that’s what he intended, he was rightfully denounced for making such a distinction.

Alternatively, it is quite possible that the president was not referring to race at all, but to the functional conditions of the countries cited.

Taking Haiti as an example, it is one of the twenty-five poorest nations in the world. In contrast, Norway is the sixth richest country in the world. According to the UN Human Development Index (which assesses people and their capabilities as the ultimate measure of the development of a country), Haiti ranks 163rd out of all nations; Norway ranks first. Haiti ranks 177th in the world for national spending on education; Norway ranks fourth. Nearly 60 percent of Haiti’s population lives below the poverty line; about 10 percent of Norwegians live below the poverty line. More than half of Haitians have limited English proficiency; Norwegians are taught English beginning in the second grade.

Norway is a functional society; Haiti is a dysfunctional one.

These are empirical facts defining the sharp differences between the countries the president referenced. It is also indisputable that, on balance, such differences will yield radically different outcomes here in America.

It is fair to ask, as the president apparently did, why the U.S. should import more poor, uneducated, unskilled immigrants from structurally weak countries who are likely to be tax payer dependent, rather than more highly-educated, skilled immigrants from developed and stable countries who can contribute to advancing our society. Is that in our best interests? President Trump thinks not, and that is the discussion that seems to have been lost in the fury over his comment.

There are social, cultural, economic and, yes, political consequences that follow in the wake of who (and how many) we receive into our country. Not every immigrant from El Salvador is a member of MS13. But neither is every immigrant a potential member of Congress (like Rep. Mia Love, whose parents came to the U.S. from Haiti).

Economically, welfare programs are designed to help low-income workers, especially those with children. Households in the U.S. headed by immigrants (legal and illegal) from the Caribbean, where Haiti is located, use twice as much welfare as households headed by immigrants from Europe. That difference alone should cause us to carefully consider the number of immigrants we take in from a given region. Add in the privilege of chain migration—which allows the original immigrant to sponsor their parents, adult children (and their spouses and children), and adult siblings for immigration to the U.S.—and suddenly we have “a mechanism that has caused legal immigration in the U.S. to quadruple from about 250,000 per year in the 1950s and 1960s to more than 1 million annually since 1990.”[1]

Immigrants with little education who don’t speak English are limited in their job prospects; the majority will gravitate toward jobs in agriculture and construction.[2] It stands to reason that if they come from a poor country in which they earned less than $1.50 per day, taking a job that pays them $8.75 an hour—or even $5 an hour— is a windfall. The downside for native-born Americans is that because these immigrants are willing to work for a lower wage, they drive down all wages and drive out the least-educated American workers, “the very people who are already struggling the most.”[3]

Politically, it also follows that immigrants who are dependent on welfare will vote in favor of candidates who promise to protect and extend access to welfare. It’s undeniable that immigrants overwhelmingly vote Democrat. This is why Democrats are accused of favoring broad, indiscriminate, legal (and illegal) immigration and oppose building a wall on our southern border.

“The foreign-born gave about two-thirds of their votes to Hillary Clinton in 2016, as did Asian and Hispanic Americans (both immigrant and native), whose explosive demographic growth is rooted almost entirely in immigration from over past [sic] 50 years, most of it legal.”[4]

That “explosive growth” over the past 50 years is the direct result of the Immigration and Nationality Act Amendments of 1965. Previously, U.S. policy had established a national-origins quota system which favored northern and western European immigration. The 1965 act phased out the national-origins quota system with a preference system based primarily on family reunification and needed skills. As a result, “immigration flows that had been European-dominated for most of the nation’s history gave way to predominantly Latin American and Asian immigration.”[5]

Today, about 27 percent of the U.S. population is made up of immigrants (both legal and illegal) and their U.S.-born children. To borrow and paraphrase a question from Dallas Willard, wouldn’t a quarter pound of salt be expected to have a tremendous effect on one pound of meat?

It is patently obvious that mass immigration has fundamentally transformed the culture of the United States and led to deep conflict over our immigration policies. It has also led to questions about the government’s responsibility to “promote the general welfare” of its citizens, about what makes up our national values, and what it means to be an American.

Generally, Christians on either side of the debate tend to talk past each other. Progressive Christians seem to view immigration primarily as a humanitarian responsibility that eclipses any restrictions, while conservative Christians seem to view immigration primarily as the pragmatic responsibility of a civic government based in Judeo-Christian values.

Like all sovereign states, the U.S. can decide who will and who won’t be allowed to enter the country. Contrary to the proponents of a broad and “inclusive” immigration policy, the U.S. is not obligated to grant entry, welfare or citizenship to foreigners who simply show up with the expectation that we should. President Trump may have behaved badly with his comment, but his instinct is correct: we must be more judicious about whom we invite to participate in this great American experiment.

Jonathon is a disciple of Jesus Christ, a husband, father and longtime Illinois resident who observes and comments on political and cultural trends.

IFI Worldview Conference Feb. 10th

We are excited about our annual Worldview Conference featuring well-know apologist John Stonestreet on Sat., Feb. 10, 2017 at Medinah Baptist Church. Mr. Stonestreet is s a dynamic speaker and the award-winning author of “Making Sense of Your World” and his newest offer: “A Practical Guide to Culture.”

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