Politics, Moderate

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Politics

Cosmopolitan with a twist

Kathleen Parker on

To Acosta, the president's bias in favor of English-speaking people is obvious and runs counter to the nation's purpose as described in the poem on the Statue of Liberty welcoming the world's tired, poor and huddled masses. Acosta, his inner soliloquist liberated at last, engaged in a recitation, whereupon Miller gleefully retorted that said poem, written in 1883 by one Emma Lazarus, was tacked onto the statue years after it was erected.

In 2017, we can't welcome skilled workers, too?

Today's wretched excess, if you will, is the direct consequence of the well-intentioned Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which gave preference to extended family members of people already here. Long lines ensued and increased quotas followed, as did the flow of immigrants too impatient for the legal process. Legal immigration has increased from 296,697 annually in 1965 to more than 1 million today. Of those, 39 percent are from Asia. About one-third emigrate from Mexico, the Caribbean and Central America. Before the law, 70 percent of legal immigrants were from Europe and Canada, compared with just 10 percent today.

Perhaps these statistics account for Acosta's sense that Republicans want to keep Americans hablando ingles. But might there also be other reasons to prefer skilled workers, who would find jobs waiting to be filled, pay taxes and contribute to the rising tide that lifts all boats?

If such preferences are tantamount to bigotry, then others have been equally guilty, including Democratic Sen. Ted Kennedy, as well as civil rights leader Barbara Jordan, who in 1972 became the first African-American woman from the South to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. As head of an immigration special task force, Jordan worried that opening the floodgates to unskilled workers would rob American citizens of jobs and strain social services. She, too, suggested focusing more on skilled immigrants.

Kennedy, who in 1965 downplayed such concerns and supported the immigration bill, later changed his mind and in 2007 joined Sen. John McCain in a push for skills-based reforms. But then-presidential candidate Barack Obama and then-Sen. Hillary Clinton opposed the idea because, hold your air horns, they couldn't bear the thought that families (aka future Democratic voters) might be torn asunder.

Oh, the ironies. The GOP has finally defined exactly which families they value, while Democrats have clarified their need for the needy. It would seem we have a draw. Yet somewhere in all the squabbling is space for the "brain power" Jordan urged Americans to call upon for a rational conversation about immigration reform that best serves the national interest.

Meanwhile, thanks for the show, and enjoy ye dog days while ye may.

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Kathleen Parker's email address is kathleenparker@washpost.com.

(c) 2017, Washington Post Writers Group

 

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