American media are so caught up in the trivia of politics that sometimes one has to look to overseas publications to see the big picture. To take one example, anyone who has been following this writer's comments in ID knows that I am not a big fan of Mitt Romney.
In contrast to some of my respected colleagues who not only believe, with good reason, that the Obama presidency has been a disaster for immigration, but also think that no alternative could possibly be any worse, I believe that Romney's far right extremist anti-immigrant demagoguery during the Republican primaries should be taken seriously.
Even if Romney did not really believe any of his own anti-immigrant campaign rhetoric, Romney would still be beholden to his party's far right wing (is there any other wing?) if elected president.
If Romney becomes president, through a combination of Republican voter suppression laws and billionaire super-pacs, there is every chance that America will feel the full force of the extreme right Republican anti-immigrant agenda - criminalizing the entire immigration system, abolishing or limiting 14th Amendment birthright citizenship (which would not require a Constitutional amendment, but would need only one 5-4 Supreme Court decision), and taking away even the current facade of "prosecutorial discretion" and "deferred action" from the fortunate few who might benefit.
A "temporary" moratorium on some or all types of immigration is also by no means impossible if Romney and the Republicans take power. This is virtually a demographic imperative for the GOP. What would the pretexts be? The answer is easy: "We have to secure the border, eliminate fraud, and make sure that every single one of the 12 million people who have illegally invaded our country, are destroying our culture and are wasting our taxpayers' money in violation of our sovereignty, and their anchor babies, go back to their countries before we can admit any more legal immigrants."
But, despite this, I have to take Romney's side on one issue: Can we forget all the trivial nonsense about when Romney really left Bain Capital? Big deal. With this by way of introduction, let's take a look at the big picture of what is happening in America.. A good start is an article in The Guardian by Michael Cohen dated July 25.
Cohen describes the huge amount of resources that America has devoted in the past decade to fighting against the outside threat of terrorism in the wake of 9/11. He estimates that the US has spent more that $3 trillion since that time in combating terrorism, not counting the cost of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. And yet, he writes, there is criticism from both Democrats and Republicans of efforts to lower defense spending even to the unjustifiably high levels of five years ago. He also writes:
"In short, even as the obvious threat from terrorism has decreased, the US continues to squander blood and treasure in fighting it."
Cohen then contrasts this overallocation of resources to fighting outside threats with the neglect of the most essential needs of a large part of our population at home:
"Contrast this mobilization, with efforts, for example, to save the lives of those Americans who die from lack of healthcare coverage. From 2000 to 2006 - a time when the war on terrorism was operating at full speed - 137,0000 Americans died prematurely because they didn't have health insurance."... This isn't even to mention the creeping reality of global warming, which has the potential to threaten the homes and livelihoods of millions. And then, of course, there is America's high rate of gun-related deaths."
The reasons for this odd situation - in which Americans overreact to foreign challenges and barely react to real and growing domestic threats - are many... But whatever the reason, the result is the same - a nation that... is rotting from the inside because it has yet to come to grips with its own domestic maladies."
For all too many Americans swayed by hate propaganda, immigration is also perceived as a threat from outside - one which "justifies" wasting billions of dollars on border fences, the immigration detention gulag and a big increase in border patrol and internal enforcement personnel at a time when badly needed teachers, firefighters, police officers and postal workers are being laid off in droves.
At the same time, the reality of human suffering - to immigrants and American citizens alike - from our resistance to demographic change, from our search for scapegoats, and from our neglect of the basic needs and rights of large sectors of our population in favor of promoting the interests of the privileged few, is being ignored. No fair or rational immigration system or reform can come out of this environment. It is time for America to stop focusing on outside bogeymen and to deal with the real needs of our own people - immigrants included.
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.