Cultural Arguments and Immigration – Some Issues
* Note to the reader: The term “anti-immigration” to define a specific stance should not be conflated with people who are for border security. “Anti-immigration” should be understood as being both anti-immigration and pro-border security while a pro-border security stance is simply wanting to have greater control over the borders while not necessarily being anti-immigrant.
Where we were
Donald Trump began his campaign in 2015 with a promise of a greater America: more jobs, economic prosperity, and a reduction in immigration. The last point, of course, brought him the most attention. Trump was called every name in the book. The words fascist and racist were used almost exclusively by reactionary college students to describe the candidate while others, more academically inclined, preferred terms like “right-wing populist” or “right-Hegelian candidate.”
There begs the question: why was the President labeled with such strong words? Even at this point in our political climate, such intense and heavy words were not used as frequently by the mainstream media, but with the emergence of Trump’s views, as well as the rhetoric used to discuss immigration, the political rhetoric scene blew up. Allegations of racism, sexism, and other inappropriate behavior surfaced – many of them believable.
Responding to “Strong-Man Trump,” the media went into hysteria over the effects of immigration. MSNBC and InfoWars paraded immigration as either the most beautiful thing in existence or the most abhorrent problem, respectively. Each source selectively chose stories that fit their narrative. They ignored other political and economic assertions and regarded their stance as objectively correct.
Where we are
Now, immigration has become a philosophical issue, with some asserting that the problem of immigration is based in culture. This argument claims that people who come from other countries do not have the same culture as the United States and, thus, should not be allowed into the U.S. until proven otherwise. Many of these folks then make the distinction between European and non-European immigration, claiming that European immigrants are more likely to assimilate because of racial connections, historical connections, and other resemblances of their culture.
This is possibly the most inconsistent and contradictory arguments an anti-immigration advocate could make.
First, to make a claim that other countries do not have a similar culture is quite a confusing statement. What is our culture? Certainly, a city like Green Bay has a much different culture than New York City. One could not truthfully say that they have similar cultural habits – beer, cheese, and politeness are generally not a focus in New York City. It would also be false to say that no person in New York City desires the Green Bay life.
One could not say that they have similar political values either. Brown County, the county that holds Green Bay, voted for Trump during the presidential election while the counties surrounding New York City overwhelming voted for Clinton. For one to claim there is national culture or national virtue is absurd – there is not.
Further, to make the claim that European nations hold the same culture as “ours” is difficult to assert, even before one recognizes that there is no one culture in the United States.
European nations have been plagued with central planning and socialist policy. The Party of European Socialists and their smaller parties have high level officials in office, supported by citizen-members. Citizen control of government and the common culture of Europe are not being overthrown by a violent revolution – they are accepting these political and cultural values. Further, they are becoming advocates. The claim that Europe currently holds the same political or cultural values as “our” values, or the values that began this country, is empirically false. Anti-immigration advocates should want a ban on European immigration just the same as they want a ban on Middle East immigration. Neither are friendly to liberty.
Not only is it impossible to define a distinct culture of the U.S. and Europe, but it is quite contradictory to not point out illiberal attitudes among American college students while discussing “our” culture. College campuses are pumping out unapologetic Marxists who do not care about life, liberty, or property, values that created this country. Rather, they espouse values similar to radicals in the Middle East – a strong state which controls all economic activity. These American students are apparently part of the culture that is deemed hospitable for liberty.
How are these students part of a culture that preserves liberty and, further, what do the supporters of this cultural argument believe should be done with those who think illiberal thoughts?
Where we are heading
This article was not meant to take a stance on immigration in one way or another. The problem of immigration is not immigration, but it is a problem of denial. When a problem arises in this country, we have begun to react fiercely without regard to reason. Just look at the people who freaked out about net neutrality. These people, like those amped up about immigration, act irrationally and hold views without a proper understanding of politics, economics, and philosophy.
These people don’t think: they feel.
To those that hold to this argument – look at the cultures within the United States and the trend of reactionary responses – do you really think our reactions and policy decisions convey the idea that America will always have a culture that promotes freedom and liberty?
At this point, it’s becoming hard to believe.
* Cahleel Copus is a college student studying political science and philosophy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He has worked with Young Americans for Liberty, The Leadership Institute, Students For Liberty and other affiliated liberty nonprofits groups.
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