I would like to begin by apologizing for misspelling Carl Shusterman's name and making several other typographical mistakes in my blogging of July 10. I tried to correct them before the they appeared in ID, but, alas, too late. I will try to catch any errors and make corrections earlier next time.
One of the most famous stories in Homer's Odyssey is the one in which Odysseus and his men try to navigate their boat between the twin dangers of Scylla, a six headed man-eating monster, on one side, and the fatal whirlpool of Charybdis on the other. Odysseus chooses to steer close to Scylla, losing only a few men, in order to avoid Charybdis, where the entire ship would have been lost. I cannot think of a better description of the choices for immigration in this fall's election.
If America steers in the direction of Scylla, better known as Barack Obama, more than a few immigrants will continue to be lost in each of the next four years to the six heads of Detention, Deportation, Death in immigration prisons, Denial of meritorious petitions and visa applications, Delay in granting immigration benefits, and Divided families.
But if the ship of America is steered into the whirlpool of Romney-Charybdis by its chief officers, Captains Super-Pac and Vote Suppression, then not only the future of immigration, but almost every American ideal and value which we have come to take for granted over most of the last century will be dragged to the bottom.
As we have seen in our brief glance at Mitt Romney's website in my last two posts, he has some nice words to say about skilled immigrants and what he would do to make things easier for them - si qua fata sinant ("if the fates allow", to quote Virgil). But in this case, the fates have names: Lamar Smith, Charles Grassley and Kris Kobach. They will never allow, nor will the rest of the xenophobic wing of the Republican party (i. e. most of the GOP). There is almost zero chance that MItt's Website Plan For Skilled Immigrants will ever see the light of day if he is elected.
But when it comes to 12 million unauthorized immigrants, Mitt's Plan is the same as that of Virgil's immitis Achilli ("merciless Achilles") toward the Trojans: To quote from Mitt's website: Secure Our Borders & Discourage Illegal Immigration. In other words: Build the Danged Fence, and above all: No Amnesty!
As I have been maintaining for quite some time, it is important to look at immigration policy in a larger context, not just in a vacuum. The Republicans' hostility to immigration by all except perhaps a very few of the comparatively wealthy, highly educated foreign elite (and many Republicans are against even that) is part of a larger program of reaction.
On issue after issue, the Republican party wants to take America back to the world of the 19th century Gilded Age, when there were no union rights or minimum wage laws, women had no political power or control over their own reproductive rights, discrimination and oppression against people of color was the law of the land, at least in a large area of the US, and large numbers of Americans, if not the majority, lived in poverty, while the country was controlled by a small, white, wealthy elite.
Does this sound just vaguely like the Republican program for today? What was our immigration system like in the Gilded Age? We had the Chinese exclusion laws, only to be followed in 1924 by the infamous "national origins" immigration quotas law, designed to keep most "non-Nordics" away from American shores.
Anyone who thinks that a Republican victory this fall would move immigration policy forward, rather than backward, would be well-advised to join Penelope's suitors, who thought that she would one day finish weaving a shroud for Laertes, the father of her absent husband Odysseus.
Roger Algase is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School. He has been practicing business immigration law in New York City for more than 20 years.