An Immigrant Slams The Left’s Paternalistic Attitude Towards The Foreign-Born
In the August 21 edition of The Wall Street Journal, Tunku Varadarajan, executive editor at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution and a legal permanent resident, takes the left to task for its attitude towards immigrants. That attitude is many things at once: paternalistic, patronizing, opportunistic, cynical, simplistic, and misleading.
Having watched all four nights of the DemocraticNational Convention, Mr. Varadarajan “found the Democrats’obsession with immigrants grating.” That’s because “scarcely a speech orsegment went by in which a fetish wasn’t made of immigrants. They wereportrayed, almost uniformly, as victims—hapless people thwarted by ‘systemicracism’ and American injustice, moored forever in a netherworld of murk andfear by President Trump’s refusal to be humane.”
It is unclear whether the author himself believes thatPresident Trump’s policies on immigration represent a “refusal to be humane,”or whether he is simply paraphrasing the left’s caricatured view of thesepolicies. Either way, protecting our borders and ensuring that foreignnationals do not take advantage of the United States – be it by thoseattempting to get their foot in the door through meritless asylum claims, orthose attempting to abuse America’s taxpayer-funded social safety net – ishardly inhumane. It is common sense. That having been said, Mr. Varadarajanmakes many good points.
The author calls out the left for being “guilty ofconflating the people who live in this country without authorization withthose—a significant majority of immigrants—who are here legally.” With its “relentlessfocus on the undocumented margins,” he continues, the left does “an enormousdisservice to [millions of] lawful immigrants who go about their dignifiedbusiness away from the spotlight, getting on with such concerns as work, schooland family, grateful for the opportunity to be in America—grateful, in fact,for the opportunity to be Americans.”
He also reminds American leftists and liberals – whoseem to have an “obsession with indigent illegal residents” – that “manyimmigrants have come to America from countries where the state interferes inpeople’s lives while pretending to help. What many of them really want (…) isfor the state to step aside and let them carve out their own destinies.”
Mr. Varadarajan also certainly has a point whenstating that “progressives, for their own reasons, scoff at the very notion of ‘assimilation.’”After all, leftists often view asking immigrants to assimilate as an arrogantand oppressive attempt to impose one’s culture on others.
However, he is on much shakier ground when he seeks to contrast identity-politics-embracing leftists with so-called “nativists” who “regard the foreign-born as inherently unassimilable.” Admittedly, in a country as populous (330 million inhabitants) and diverse as the United States, one is bound to find some people who express outlandish or extreme points of view. So, some “nativists” who hold such crude, simplistic, and deterministic views exist.
However, being an immigrant and a naturalized citizen,I have personally never met even one such “nativist” who regards “theforeign-born as inherently unassimilable” – and I have lived in the U.S. foralmost 30 years, and have interacted with many people representing variouscurrents of right-of-center American politics (from “moderates” throughlibertarians to the most rock-ribbed of conservatives) for two decades. Eventhe most “hawkish” of so-called “immigration hawks” have all, at least in myexperience, seen assimilation as both desirable and attainable.
It is difficult to quibble with the followingstatement made by the author, however: “perpetuating the category of ‘immigrant’involvesthe making permanent of an identity that is by definition temporary.” Theleftists, according to Mr. Vaadarajan, “would like many of us to embrace atransitory state as an aspiration in itself. ‘E pluribus unum’—one out ofmany—is less attractive to them than a creed of ‘Many out of one.’” That is aninsightful argument that the critics of the left’s pandering don’t make oftenenough.
But perhaps the most important fragment of the op-ed is that the left’s “compulsion to create ever more categories of victimized minorities by adding ‘immigrants’ to the list of the maltreated serves neither immigrants nor the country. You can see the short-term advantage to the Democrats of an ever-expanding pool of voters from abroad. But I—and millions like me—did not regard the U.S. as a country where you can never acquire a mainstream identity, and where political forces tell you that the surest way to become accepted is to nurse your grievances forever.”