Their children were grown. The house, empty. My parents missed having kids around, so they hosted a student from Japan, a young woman, part of a group of a dozen staying around town. Not long: six weeks or so.
During her stay, the group took a trip to Niagara Falls, but the student staying with my parents refused to go.
After the tears and drama, the reason was revealed. Half of Niagara Falls is in Canada. Another country. She was ‘chosen-seki,’ the descendent of Koreans who came to Japan when it occupied Korea between 1910 and 1945. Her grandparents were Korean and, as far as the Japanese were concerned, so was she, as would be her children, and their children, into eternity. She worried about going through customs with her friends; somebody might her passport, discover her shame.
Sound cruel? It is. It’s certainly un-American. We don’t judge people by measuring their grandparents. The law is, if you are born on American soil, you’re an American citizen. It’s written into our Constitution; the 14th Amendment, Section 1: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.”
Donald Trump’s campaign was built on fear of immigrants, from the moment he proclaimed Mexicans criminals and rapists. Faced with possible rebuke at the polls Tuesday, he returned to stirring up fear and hatred, demonizing a band of Central American refugees walking toward this country.
Promising to dispatch 15,000 soldiers to spend Christmas waiting for them didn’t do the trick. So Trump is talking about unilaterally abnegating part of the Constitution (Gosh, is that a thing? Because then gun control becomes easy).
Trump’s attempt reveals Republican horror at illegal immigrants to be the lie it has always been. Their pose is, “We’re not haters! We don’t fear immigrants; we hate them because they’re illegal.”
But their children aren’t illegal. They’re not immigrants; they’re citizens. That’s the law. Which is why, when Trump starts talking about changing that, he’s giving away the game. Well, not to his supporters, who rationalize each new hypocrisy (really, pointing to European immigration law? Have they no shame? You know that a Republican has really tied himself into a knot when he’s citing socialist Europe as a justification. Hey, can we borrow that argument for health care?)
Seeking asylum in the United States is also legal. So troops are being sent to keep people from doing what the law allows. What other legal activity might troops next prevent? Because in Trump’s America, nothing is certain, no tradition so cherished or law so established it can’t be sacrificed to the bottomless terror of his base.
Ah, the base. Trump wants to spur them to vote. Because they are horrified by all the mass slaughters committed by Hispanic immigrants — whoops, those are white men. Who are against immigrations because … well, I wish somebody would explain. It’s bad enough to have 11 million undocumented immigrants living and working here, barred from a path to citizenship. Now our president wants to create generations of stateless Americans, born here, indistinguishable in every way except the paperwork we deny them. Why?
Returning to Japan. The country is dying, demographically. The population was 128 million in 2000. You know what it is today? 127 million. You know what it’s projected to be in 2050? 100 million.
Low birth rate and lack of immigration. The Japanese, by trying to preserve their racial purity, have strangled their own country. They’re murdering themselves.
The United States has a low birthrate too. Our population would also be shrinking. Except for immigration. Except that we live in a country without loathsome notions of bloodlines.
Up to now.
The immigration policies of the Trump administration and his supporters are not only deeply hateful. Not only immoral. Not only bad for immigrants. They’re also bad for the country. Bad economically. Bad demographically. A perfect storm of hate-fueled folly.
We are a nation of immigrants. The United States right now is 17.8 percent Hispanic and Latino origin. By 2050, it will be 25 percent. How will they view this shameful period in our nation’s history? How will we view the way 40 percent of America had to be dragged kicking and screaming into the future? How government inflamed their nameless terrors?
Will we look back with pride? I imagine it’ll be with puzzlement. Our children will wonder why we acted this way. I can answer that in three words: We were afraid.