The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO


February 26, 2014

Geoff Caldwell, columnist: Compassion, history not behind immigration debate

We’re two months into President Barack Obama’s “year of action,” and if the past couple weeks are any indicator, oh, what a year it will be. His midterm election strategy, based on a trifecta of shiny objects, is off to a rousing start.

Question data discrepancy or modeling inconsistencies of the “consensus” that favors the administration’s climate position and you’re a flat-earther. (Never mind that the actual flat-earthers of the Middle Ages were the “consensus” of the time.)

Don’t dare point out that the Congressional Budget Office says that raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour will put anywhere from 300,000 to 1 million of the poorest of the poor out of a job.

And even think about suggesting that “comprehensive” immigration reform as passed in the Senate is not a good idea at this time and you’ll find yourself transformed into a racist xenophobe.

Because I was an adopted child, I have not a clue of my biological immigration history. From my earliest memories I was immersed in the American immigration experience.

I remember the trips to Great-grandma’s house where Grandma would translate between my English and her mother-in-law’s Czech. I heard firsthand of the “old country” from elders. I was introduced to four-letter words from the impassioned arguments of our Polish custom cutters. The wheat I helped harvest came from Russian immigrants. I played football against grandsons of German immigrants. I went to college and studied alongside Lebanese and Pakistani immigrants.

There is no debate that without our rich immigrant past, we would be not half the great nation we are today.  

Proponents of reform now imply that immigrants of today are no different than the millions who passed through Ellis Island a century ago. But the implication is wrong. They are indeed different.

Ellis Island was a legal process. Ellis Island screened for health issues and let through those who would not be a burden to society. Harsh but true.

When Ronald Reagan signed the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, it was widely regarded as the “compassionate” thing to do. Approximately 3 million illegal immigrants would get one-time amnesty and the southern border would be secured. It’s one of those grand bipartisan compromises the D.C. elite tout as “progress.”

Yet the border never got secured and the siren call of “we did it once, we’ll surely do it again” brought millions more across the border to just sit tight and wait for the next amnesty.  

Now they and their supporters say they’ve waited long enough. Never mind that their first act in this country was to break the law.

The Democrats want the votes and the suits in corporate executive suites want cheap labor, so it must be made so.  

Who cares if it devalues the citizenship of the millions who respected the rule of law and immigrated via the legal route? What does it matter if it depresses the wages of every working American?

Even die-hard lefty Paul Krugman had to admit in 2006, when this was first being proposed, that “while immigration may have raised overall income slightly, many of the worst-off native-born Americans are hurt by immigration — especially immigration from Mexico. Because Mexican immigrants have much less education ... they increase the supply of less-skilled labor, driving down the wages of the worst-paid Americans.”

The immigration debate today is not about compassion. It is and always has been about raw political power and corporate greed. Nothing more, nothing less.

Geoff Caldwell writes on national and international affairs. He lives in Joplin. Contact him at

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