America is not America (part two)

Can we turn anywhere in the past for instruction about refugee and immigrant policy?

No, say the undergraduates at Princeton University:

Trump’s vision for the United States is perniciously fascist — incorporating elements of racism, xenophobia, jingoism, totalitarianism, and misogyny. Worst of all, Trump’s vision is indefinite: His actions have no bounds, and it is unclear when this nation will heal from his actions.

But this is not a departure from Americanism. There is nothing specifically un-American about Trump’s executive orders or rhetoric. The American Nightmare is an American Reality. Only when we realize that “living up to American values” is to sanction Trump may we wake up from this horrid dream.

Immigrant exclusion based on race, religion, or national origin is an American pastime. The Alien and Sedition Acts, arguably the first discriminating immigration act, were signed into law in 1798. Following this was the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act; in response to popular racist and xenophobic anti-Chinese sentiment, the act “required the few nonlaborers who sought entry to obtain certification from the Chinese government that they were qualified to immigrate.” The act was extended into the 20th Century with the Geary Act, and its effects were not effectively reversed until the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965.

The Chinese Exclusion Act is only one of many governmental measures to marginalize those deemed a “threat” to white civilization. Notably, the United States is guilty of genocide against Indigenous tribes. The Trail of Tears, perhaps the most infamous atrocity committed against an Indigenous tribe, resulted from Andrew Jackson’s abuse of presidential power to seize Native lands and force thousands into what is now Oklahoma. More than 4,000 died on the journey, with hundreds of others dying upon arrival. Trump’s executive orders in support of Keystone XL and the Dakota Access Pipeline is a continuation of the United States’ regnant disregard for indigenous peoples, not an anomaly.

Cold War policy isn’t much help either:

There was another way to become a refugee, an immigrant, and eventually a U.S. citizen. According to immigration law, if a migrant was on American soil, even if one had entered illegally, one could claim asylum, arguing that the applicant had a “well founded fear” of persecution if returned home. Only two thousand or so persons won asylum annually in the 1970s. For example, the government denied asylum to most of the Haitian boat people during the 1970s and deported them. After the 1980 refugee act incorporated the new UN definition of refugee status in place of the anticommunist one, and when the civil wars in Central America escalated, the number applying for asylum skyrocketed. More than 140,000 applied in 1995, for example, and by the end of the 1990s the backlog reached several hundred thousand. Haitians came by boat, but tens of thousands of Central Americans illegally crossed the border separating the United States and Mexico. The State Department and the INS insisted they were mostly illegal immigrants who should be deported. INS officials in Florida did modify policy slightly toward Nicaraguans. An official said that he could not deny asylum to Nicaraguans when the United States insisted that the government of that country was undemocratic and that the CIA-backed contras were trying to overthrow it. Nicaraguans still had difficulty in winning asylum status, but their approval rate was more than double that of their neighbors. In 1989, for example, 5,092 Nicaraguans won asylum, compared with 102 Guatemalans and 443 Salvadorans.

Friends of these contestants for asylum insisted that a double standard was being applied: Cubans merely had to get to the United States, but Central Americans had to win their claims on an individual basis. Many undocumented immigrant Salvadorans, Guatemalans, Hondurans, Haitians, and Nicaraguans did adjust their status due to an amnesty for undocumented immigrants passed in 1986. As noted, the law covered those in the United States before 1982, but for others fleeing violence in Central America after that date individual asylum was required, which was even more difficult to demonstrate when the civil wars in Central America ended in the early 1990s. Fewer than 10 percent of Salvadorans, Guatemalans, and Hondurans were granted asylum in 1999—up slightly from the rate of the 1980s but less than half of the general approval rate. Those who came after the IRCA amnesty were left in limbo, although minor modifications in immigration policy did permit some to remain. Moreover, once these Central Americans won asylum, they were eligible to adjust their status to that of regular immigrants and could then use the family preference system to sponsor their relatives. For example, in 1996 Haitian immigrants numbered 18,386, with 8,952 of these under the family preference system and another 4,815 coming as immediate family members of U.S. citizens who were exempt from the quotas. Comparable figures for Salvadorans were 17,903; 8,959; and 5,519. Data for Hondurans and Guatemalans were similar. The United States did permit Salvadorans and Hondurans the right to stay temporarily in the United States when earthquakes and hurricanes struck in the 1990s. These temporary stays, called temporary protected status (TPS), were not asylum; when TPS ended, the undocumented aliens were expected to go home.

But who cares about history? I know some evangelical historians who care but for some reason their historical perspective means moral disapproval (with a dose of self-approval).

14 thoughts on “America is not America (part two)

  1. Ideals that “stand on their own.” Where do they come from? Why would anyone have those rather than some others? By what standard does one pick? How do such unexamilned (and unexaminable) propositions get traction among the best & the brightest in the Ivy League?


  2. Except for one problem: Define “fascism” and then we’ll take it to the next step of discussion. Every time I hear that word it’s always associated with Hitler, Mussolini, and most recently Trump. But what exactly are we talking about here? A dictator? That persona could emerge under the guise of many different so-called “philosophies”, socialists, communists, and even capitalists. So when we call someone a “fascist,” among which of these do we rank Trump? And why?

    Having fled pre-Nazi Germany, Peter Drucker made the following observation, “…“Fascist totalitarianism has no positive theology, but confines itself to refuting, fighting and denying all traditional ideas and ideologies…Fascism not only refutes all old ideas but denies, for the first time in European history, the foundation on which all former political and social systems had been built…”[1]

    Further, Drucker went on to observe that, “I…realized that the new totalitarianisms, especially Nazism in Germany, were indeed a genuine revolution, aiming at the overthrow of something much more fundamental than economic organization: values, beliefs, and basic morality. It was a revolution which replaced hope by despair, [and] reason by magic…,” and he went on to say, “…Nazi leaders have prided themselves publicly on their disregard for truth…”[2]

    Drucker’s definition demonstrates that Fascism should not be defined by the brutality that it ultimately engaged in. Instead, it should be defined by the irrational, deconstructive philosophy that it embraced. The logical consequences of this anti-rational philosophy were the unspeakable evils committed by the men who, having been stripped of transcendent truth and morals had no checks upon their sinful human nature. One could argue that the day the Fascists succeeded in deconstructing values, beliefs, basic morality and reason itself was also the day when the foundations were poured for Auschwitz, Buchenwald, Dachau and Bergen-Belsen.

    Ernst Nolte, in his book Three Faces of Fascism said, “Georg Lukács in his book, Die Zerstörung der Vernuft…attempts to describe philosophical irrationalism as an essential component of and background to National Socialism, as the ‘reactionary answer to the great problems of the past hundred and fifty years.’ On Germany’s path ‘from Schelling to Hitler’ is to be found practically every name of any stature in German philosophy after Hegel’s death: Schopenhauer and Nietzche, Dilthey and Simmel, Scheler and Heidegger, Jaspers and Max Weber.”[3]

    Drucker goes on to say, “…Fascism, however, goes much further in its negation of the past than any earlier political movement, because it makes this negation its main platform. What is even more important, it denies simultaneously ideas and tendencies which are in themselves antithetic. It is antiliberal, but also anticonservative; antireligious and antiatheist, anticapitalist and antisocialist…—the list could be continued indefinitely.”[4]

    So what exactly is it we’re talking about with this “fascism” business? Fascism was not defeated on the battlefields of Western Europe. Armies were defeated. But Fascism lived on. It lurked in the shadows for decades and was ultimately imported to the United States and the European democracies through universities and institutions of higher education. Fascism took a new shape in the field of literary criticism through the postmodern deconstructionism of Derrida and has now grown like a cancer that has spread from literary criticism to philosophy to politics to economics to religion.

    So let’s call it by a different name, one that perfectly describes it in todays world: Post Modernism. If any administration in this country could be identified under the “old” moniker it was the previous one. “We need to level the playing field,” “LBGT rights are human rights,” etc. In other words, nothing is fixed or normal, everything is up for grabs.

    Trump might be an arrogant PITA, but depending on the particular definition one wants to use, he’s no more a fascist than any of his successors.

    [1] Drucker, Peter F. The End of Economic Man: the Origins of Totalitarianism. New Brunswick, N.J., U.S.A.: Transaction, 1995.
    [2] Ibid.
    [3] Nolte, Ernst. Three Faces of Fascism: Action Française, Italian Fascism, National Socialism. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1966.
    [4] Drucker, 13.


  3. Where were evangelical “leaders” on refugees from El Salvador (has nothing to do with signaling disapproval of Trump)?

    Notice that Kathy Keller gets higher billing than Ann Voskamp:

    Other key signatories include Kathy Keller, Willow Creek’s Bill and Lynne Hybels, authors Stuart and Jill Briscoe, author Ann Voskamp, Southern Baptist seminary president Daniel Akin, and pastors Joel Hunter and Derwin Gray,


  4. Bill Smith’s fault may be thinking he’s an evangelical.

    Let me ask just two questions: 1) Most important, does the Parable of the Good Samaritan direct the President of the United States about the admission of refugees into the country? By what exegesis and reasoning does one get from the Good Samaritan to Donald Trump? Did Jesus in telling this parable envision that he was instructing the secular governments of the 21st Century regarding their immigration policies? 2) Did Jesus in the parable make “it clear that our ‘neighbor’ includes the stranger and anyone fleeing persecution and violence, regardless of their faith or country?” If you say, “neighbor means anyone in need of whom I have any knowledge,” I suppose you can get there. But that still leaves the question of whether Jesus was speaking to Donald Trump about the policy of his administration.

    Lynne Hybels says:

    For some people, embracing refugees is a political issue. For me, as a Christian, speaking up for and caring for refugees is more an act of worship and obedience to a God whose Kingdom is global and whose “mercies are new every morning.”

    For Mrs. Hybels “embracing more an act of worship and obedience to a God whose Kingdom is global,” but does she think all Christians are bound to offer the same act of worship and obedience? Since it is an act of worship and obedience, am I disobedient if I do not embrace the refugees as she does?

    Which immigrants and refugees and when to admit those from seven countries is about politics. Just politics. It is not about the kingdom of God or my neighbor. As a political question, according to the law, it is a matter for Chief Executive to decide. If, as a political matter. I disagree with him, maybe I’ll write him a letter. (I once wrote Bill Clinton, “Tell your maw, tell your paw, we’re gonna send you back to Arkansas,” which threat failed to come to fruition. If people would have joined me, we could have avoided the whole blue dress thing.)

    But I don’t give a rip what Tim Keller and 99 other evangelical pastors and leaders think. Which evangelicals elected them to speak for the rest of us evangelicals? Who made them competent, as pastors and leaders, to instruct the President about immigration policy. As far as I am concerned they can do with their letter what Johnny Paycheck told the boss man to do with that job.

    Even as a Reformed Episcopalian, Smith is way more Presbyterian than TKNY.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Who cares about history? Not narcissists. BTW, we should note that many of the nations from which those sought asylum came were victims of violent US foreign policies.


  6. “Where were evangelical “leaders” on refugees from El Salvador (has nothing to do with signaling disapproval of Trump)?”

    Now that’s a good question! I studied and worked in Mexico for 2 years and later became a Spanish teacher here in the states. I interacted quite a bit with migrant workers children enrolling in my school. I never recall the big wigs at Lifeway (I lived in TN) in all the years I taught wringing their hands over the illegal residents Coming into the state. At least for me it is obvious that Trump is embarrassing the Urban & Suburban evangelicals. They are grasping at anything to distance themselves. And I agree Trump is cringe worthy but was Clinton not?!


  7. if “my people” begin doing what we in the academy think they should, they will not be equivalent to “other people”

    “Cavell pursues a line of thought discernible in Winthrop, Alexander Hamilton, Emerson, and Lincoln. Putting it plainly, the claim here is not that Americans are an exceptionally blessed, virtuous, or accomplished people. Much to the contrary, the point of these interventions is to spur the American people to transcend their all-too-compromised circumstances. In its basic outlines, the idea is that the people at large must be converted to a new set of values, a new way of life, a new world. The idea is not to praise Americans as an exceptional people, but rather to press Americans to take exception to their present shortcomings in order to begin amending them. “


  8. Romans 3: There is no one righteous, NOT EVEN ONE
    11 There is NO ONE who understands;
    there is NO ONE who seeks God.
    12 ALL have turned away;
    ALL ALIKE have become useless.
    There is NO ONE who does what is good,

    15 they are swift to shed blood
    17 the path of peace they have not known.
    18 There is no fear of God before their eyes

    But the new covenant is only about persons as they are religious, and it’s up to Jesus to disarm the powers when Jesus comes.

    Colossians 2: 14 He erased the certificate of debt, with its obligations, that was against us and opposed to us, and has taken it out of the way by nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and disgraced them PUBLICLY. He triumphed over them by Him.

    Colossians 2: 20 Since you died with the Messiah to the elemental forces of this world, why do you live as if you still belonged to the world?,+but+the+lost+innocence+is+worthy+of+respectful+and+inquisitive+wonder.+The+French+lost+.&source=bl&ots=rxRhHg7Ysi&sig=KnipsfrvRXKM-p2AFXJb9bln-j4&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjXs8mfqInSAhVC2IMKHVeLACAQ6AEIIjAB#v=onepage&q=st%20war%20is%20not%20hard%20to%20identify%2C%20but%20the%20lost%20innocence%20is%20worthy%20of%20respectful%20and%20inquisitive%20wonder.%20The%20French%20lost%20.&f=false


  9. Imagine. Immigrants and refugees have social costs (even while paying dividends of self-righteousness):

    This raises the question of how quickly immigrants assimilate under various conditions—something Borjas has been fascinated with since his earliest days as an economist. In 1978, a popular study noted that immigrants who’d been in the country for longer out-earned more recent arrivals, implying that immigrants gradually catch up to natives over time. In his very first study of the economics of immigration, published in 1985, Borjas challenged that idea, pointing out that more recent arrivals were less skilled than previous waves of immigrants had been. He argued it was better to track each immigrant wave over time, rather than comparing different waves with each other—and that method revealed far less assimilation.

    Indeed, even the Ellis Island immigrants took about a century to fully catch up with natives, and over the last 50 years new immigrants have fallen further and further behind natives in terms of education and wages. Most troubling of all, assimilation—the speed with which they catch up—has slowed over time as well. Two major reasons: the United States is a less rewarding place for low-skill workers than it used to be, and newer immigrants are not improving their skills as much as their predecessors did. Newer arrivals are less likely to learn English, for example, especially if they live in ethnic enclaves.

    Importantly, it’s fairly predictable which immigrants will succeed economically and which won’t. If immigrants from a given country arrive with more years of schooling, they also tend to see more wage improvement over time, for example. And the impacts persist over the generations: if immigrants from a given country have high wages, their descendants likely will too.


  10. The Wall Street Journal went tunnel vision on this ignorance of social costs regarding immigration recently. They just wanted immigration for skills they might provide in the UK. But the issue of extra school places for immigrant’s children, health costs and welfare was completely ignored. This seemed even to me a bit stupid of the WSJ. In the UK we made emotive promises of looking after all, and the costs both economically and socially are massive. For example, over 30,000 Polish folk based in the UK send child benefit from England back to Poland regularly thanks to EU rules, arguably money taken out of our economy and shops.
    I noted recently on my tax details that a chunk of it (over 10%) is being used to pay for the UK national debt and the interest on it and yet folks still claim we are a rich country.


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