Numbers Should Trump the ‘Sympathy Card’

Published on August 7th, 2014

Open border advocates immediately play the “sympathy card” anytime anyone suggests limits on immigration. “They’re just poor huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” they piously emote, “so we must let them all in, each and every one.”

A current example is the endless harping on the word “children” to describe the surge of illegal aliens from Central America. The implication is clear. If you propose to send any home, you’re a cruel ogre with no compassion for small tykes who are fleeing horrific violence. Amid all this consternation, we’re not supposed to notice that almost 90 percent of these “children” are in fact teenagers, that some are gang members and that violence in Central America has actually diminished as the flow of Central Americans has increased.

Manipulated sympathy and maudlin ideals are hard barriers to break for those of us who would like to discuss immigration in a reasonable fashion with reference to the limits of the real world. What can we do? One possibility is simply pointing to inescapable realities of numbers and their consequences.

One illustration is a conversation that former President Jimmy Carter had with Deng Xiaoping, the vice-premier of China back in 1979. Carter proclaimed that China should allow its citizens to move to other countries. Deng smiled, and replied, “Well, Mr. President, how many Chinese nationals do you want? Ten million? Twenty million? Thirty million?” Carter was silent and didn’t bring up the issue again.

Yes, brute reality – by the numbers – has a way of puncturing sweet sentimentality. When our immigration enthusiasts play the emotive sympathy card, we should respond in the fashion of Deng: And just how many millions can we afford to admit?

The fact of the matter is that we have a potential for influx far greater than the mere 10 to 30 million mentioned by the former Chinese leader. A world Gallup Poll two years ago found that a total of 150 million foreign adults would like to move to the United States. But that would only be the beginning. Under our current immigration law, these adults also could bring in their spouses, children, parents and siblings.

And the flow wouldn’t stop there, because all those relatives could bring in their relatives too! Certainly there would be no shortage of applicants because population continues to surge in some of the countries where people want to leave for America. Thus if we throw out the welcome mat and make it known we won’t enforce immigration laws, we potentially could have at least a half-billion more huddled masses headed our way during the next 20 years. And many of these people would be fleeing conditions just as bad as any in Central America – or worse.

Thus, to check the emotive sympathy card, we might ask some pointed questions. Among them:

  • How many can we admit before our country becomes a wretched replica of the sending countries – at which point no one else will want to come here?
  • How many can we take before we overwhelm our capacity for assimilation?
  • How many can we admit before we place undue stress on our resources and the environment?
  • How many can come before they harm the economic prospects of poor Americans?

These queries probably won’t deter the strongest enthusiasts for mass immigration, who hold their views with almost religious fervor. Nevertheless, they might prod a lot of other people to think more – and emote less – about immigration.

Tell your elected leaders we need immigration reduction now!

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