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Letters to the Editor: Feb. 23, 2018

Immigration needs limits

Re: “Why we should all welcome immigrants and refugees” [Volume 8, Issue 1 or bit.ly/2DMpMUz]

The act of vandalism at the Ascension Lutheran Church was hateful and a violation of two of the fundamental rights that are so important to the effective functioning of our democracy. I refer to the right to own property and the right of free speech. Further, whether or not one believes in the Bible, it is difficult to disagree with the exhortation to care about the plight of others who are in need.

What Pastor Fry does not mention is whether he believes this nation, or any other for that matter, has the right to control its borders. The title of the editorial “Why we should all welcome immigrants and refugees” does not make a distinction between legal and illegal immigrants and thus implies he favors open borders.

Those of us fortunate enough to have been born in American, should be grateful for that blessing. However, while being born here is the luck of the draw, the level of freedom and prosperity we enjoy is no accident.

Those who founded our country installed a system of government capable of policing itself to prevent the abuses found in so many other countries. They adopted an economic system (capitalism) that, together with the rule of law and property rights, encourages productivity by allowing individuals to be rewarded for talent and hard work. These features of America culture, among others, have helped produce a high standard of living.

Many cultures do not share these values, and are therefore much less pleasant places to live. Thus, there are millions of people now living in other countries who would like to live here. I have read that worldwide there may be 600 million or more in that category.

Pastor Fry’s impassioned plea to welcome refugees and immigrants, while tugging at our heartstrings, ignores the difficult question of controlling our borders and setting reasonable immigration quotas that will not destroy the American way of life that we now enjoy. Does everyone in the world have a right to live in the United States? Most would probably answer no. But if not everyone, how many immigrants should we allow to enter?

We are frequently reminded that ours is a “nation of immigrants.” However, immigration is different now than it was in past centuries. In earlier years, this country of ours was a largely unsettled country that could easily accommodate and provide opportunity for many. Those who immigrated were not motivated by welfare benefits because there were none.

Today, we are the third most populous country in the world and many of us do not want to become as crowded as China and India and others. Today, we have a generous welfare system that is a lure for many and which must be paid for by our taxpayers. America is wealthy, but also over $20 trillion in debt.

Taken in reasonable numbers, immigrants can be assimilated into our culture and become producers of the wealth and standard of living we enjoy. Taken in numbers too large, immigrants may try to change our governing system and move it in the less productive directions they are accustomed to in their home countries. Taken in numbers too large, immigrants unduly burden our taxpayers with the costs of a generous welfare system that includes schools, housing, health care, and many other anti-poverty programs. Taken in numbers too large, immigrants hold down wage growth for the unskilled poor among us.

I am certainly not arguing for no immigration. I am arguing for limits — and limits are meaningless without enforcement. So, I wish Pastor Fry would make specific suggestions about what the legal immigration system should look like: How many immigrants with what characteristics we should take in and what measures should be taken to enforce whatever quota is set. Or, if he favors open borders, Pastor Fry should be forthright about saying so and explain how that would work.

Immigration is a complex and emotional subject. We need dialogue that both calls on our better natures and recognizes the practical realities of immigration.

— Russell Buckley, La Mesa.

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