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It’s complicated

December 30, 2018

My brother in law works for ICE. He’s a good man and I like him. You’d probably like him too if you knew him. He’s just that way. While I do not agree with all of his views concerning illegal immigration into the United States I respect them because they are wrought from experience.

When we occasionally have the opportunity to sit down and discuss immigration I listen to what he has to say — whether I agree with it or not. It’s a good exercise too because listening is a commodity in exquisitely short supply when it comes to this labyrinthine, yet essential to figure out, social issue.

Social Justice Warriors — for what it’s worth a plague on our culture in my opinion — have staked out seemingly impenetrable positions on opposite sides of this issue. On the one hand illegal immigrants crossing our southern border are either criminals, terrorists or members of MS-13. On the other hand illegal immigrants are innocent victims of political or criminal oppression seeking relief to which they are completely entitled in any just and fair-minded society.

The fact of the matter, at least in my view, is that though there are elements of truth in both points of view, neither is entirely, or even substantially, correct. Immigration across our southern border is a complex issue that affects even those of us who live far from the border. It’s also something that we’d be wise to get right.

But because illegal immigration across the southern border is complex, and because it’s most often expounded upon explosively by those long on boom but short on facts, I don’t know if I’d hold my breath waiting for a lot of wisdom to start falling like manna from the heavens.

I wrote a column about a decade ago on this topic where I stated that I wouldn’t mind trading some of the lazy, boneheaded rascals who just happen to have been lucky enough to have been born in the USA for some of the industrious, hard-working folks who travel thousands of miles on foot to seek opportunities in this country for them and their families.

I still feel the same way. There is nothing wrong with the vast majority of folks who cross our southern border illegally seeking a better life. To work with them is to learn what a work ethic is. I completely respect what most of them are all about.

But some of those crossing the border are a problem — drugs, violence, human trafficking, you name it. And even among the vast majority of decent, industrious folks crossing the border illegally, few are escaping anything other than poor economic prospects. It’s clear from multiple accounts that coaching on how to best game our system is common — and that part of that coaching is that traveling with children improves your prospects for getting in to the United States.

With that in mind I’m hard-pressed to comprehend how the recent deaths of two children in the custody of U.S. authorities, albeit tragic, is predominantly the fault of anyone other than those principally responsible for putting them in harm’s way — their parents. There’s little doubt that these children were placed in a terrible situation in an attempt to improve their parents odds of getting into our country. As much as I despise President Trump and all of his idiot policies on immigration, the responsibility for the deaths of these two children lie mostly with their parents, not with U.S. authorities.

Can and should we do a better job at our southern border? Almost certainly. But like anything else policing the southern border requires the commitment of time, money and other resources. All of that has got to come from somewhere. Further, to get this right, many are going to have to put aside preconceived notions and quit demonizing the other side.

A lot of people on both sides of this issue dislike the other side enough to blame them for people dying. On one side you have the likes of those who’ve seized on the tragedy of these two young kids to excoriate U.S. officials who are doing their best with the bad hand they’ve been dealt. On the other side you have individuals, including the president himself, who use every murder committed by an illegal immigrant — something that many studies show is relatively rare — as a bludgeon against anyone who’s not as crazy as he is.

It pretty much goes without saying that I don’t think that either of these narratives is correct. It’s complicated, but the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Because it’s complicated, and because illegal immigration has become such a litmus test for purity on the left and right, it’s going to take a moon shot type of effort to fix.

Oh wait, terrible analogy. If we do that a bunch of knuckleheads will one day claim that humans never crossed the southern border. Better think of something else.

Associated Press and Idaho Press Club award-winning columnist Martin Hackworth of Pocatello is a physicist, writer, consultant and retired Idaho State University faculty member who now spends his time happily raising three children, llama farming, and riding mountain bikes and motorcycles.

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