Immigration has been a contentious issue almost since the beginning of the country. Tensions might subside but they’re always just below the surface. Right now, they’re busting through.

Yesterday, Donald Trump wondered why we have to take people from all these “shithole” countries like Haiti and ones in Africa instead of places like Norway. In other words, why do have to take brown people instead of white ones? Politicians of all stripes blasted the racist sentiments implied in his ramblings.

In North Carolina, Rep. George Holding (NC-02) said he would not support a DACA deal that leads to citizenship for any of the people who were brought here by their parents as children. Holding said, “Breaking the law has consequences and that will flow down to your children.” How else will he apply that standard? Will children whose parents shoplift and are banned from certain stores also be banned? How about children whose parents commit Social Security fraud? Will they be banned from receiving benefits? Holding’s standard is political, not practical.

The DACA debate and the immigration debate in general is rooted in politics, racism and xenophobia, even if conservatives want to claim it’s more about economics. The Trump wing of the Republican base is animated more by the influx of people from Mexico and Latin America than probably any single issue other than guns. It’s the browning of America that scares them because they believe they’re losing their culture and their jobs to these foreigners.

To keep them engaged, Trump and his GOP allies propose legislation that deports the people already here and prevents more from coming to the United States. The border wall is the symbolic barrier to immigration though it would likely have little real effect since most undocumented immigrants arrive in airports. Conservatives like to argue that we need immigrants from more developed countries because we need their skills. However, immigrants from Nigeria, one of those shithole nations, have a higher education level and higher income than most Americans. Almost two-thirds of Nigerian immigrants hold college degrees.

The other reason Holding and Republicans don’t want to give Dreamers access to citizenship is that they don’t want them to vote. The GOP has increasingly alienated people of color and instead of wooing them, they’re trying to limit their access to the ballot box. It’s a failing strategy that just serves to further define the GOP as the party of old white people. As for the politics, demographics are only destiny if the Republicans make them so.

Immigration should not be about the quality of the countries people want to leave. It should be about the quality of the people who want to come here. We need people who want to pursue the American dream through hard work and enterprise. Sure, we should be looking for people already prepared for the modern economy, but we should also be welcoming people who will build the workforce a generation from now. Penalizing dreamers will only further drive a wedge between Republicans and the fast growing segments of the population.


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