Border Wall

A U.S. Border Patrol vehicle drives next to a U.S-Mexico border fence in the booming New Mexico town of Santa Teresa in 2016. 

President Trump’s immigration policy, which he articulated in his State of the Union address, deserves bipartisan support. It takes seriously the realities of our broken immigration system and the resulting dangers to our democratic institutions, constitutional freedoms and our way of life. What are some of these dangers?

First, there is the “War on America” created by the Federal Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 (the Heart-Celler bill ), which eliminated provisions for national origin, race and ancestry as the basis for immigration and substituted instead a seven–category preference system that included provisions for what is referred to as “chain migration.”

Another danger results from the 1990 Immigration Act, which established the “lottery system” whereby we randomly give away 50,000 green cards annually to people from countries selected because they have the least ties and cultural association with United States. Since 1965, this legislation has resulted in 59 million legal immigrants to the U.S. Many of these are strangers to our democratic institutions, some even hostile to American values and beliefs.

In addition, there may be as many as 30 million illegals who have entered the U.S. under this broken system. Included among these are 1.8 million “dreamers,” children brought here illegally by their parents.

Our president is calling for much-needed corrections to the Heart-Seller Act of 1965 and the 1990 Immigration Act. This means ending the system of chain migration and the immigrant visa lottery that have provided an easy way for Islamic terrorists and Latin American criminal gangs like MS 13 to enter our country. He is asking Congress to close these loopholes but at the same time to provide a pathway to citizenship for the 1.8 million “dreamers.”

Also, Trump is calling for legislation to fully secure the U.S. border by providing the funds to build a wall along our southern border. This may be the right time to make a clear statement to defend our national integrity. This may be the right time to do more than just draw a verbal “line in the sand.”

It must be remembered walls have both a symbolic and a pragmatic purpose. The Great Wall of China begun in the Chin dynasty in 221 B.C. continued to provide defense along the 1,500-mile northern border of China through the Ming Dynasty 1368-1644 A.D. But the Great Wall also gave the Chinese people a sense of security and peace and helped to stabilize their national integrity and define their identity.

So, too, with Hadrian’s Wall on the border between England and Scotland, built by the Romans between 117-138 A.D. to keep the Scots and Picts from raiding Roman Britain. It provided the Britons with protection, peace and freedom as well as a symbol of their identity.

Modern walls also serve similar functions. Consider for example the defense and symbolic significance of the U.S. “wall”of missile silos along our northern border during the Cold War, or the DMZ “wall” spanning the Korean peninsula today. The proposed border wall will have its own unique character. Some have suggested it may include both solar power generation and surveillance dimensions along with its protection and identity functions.

The goal of this four-fold immigration policy must be to protect the integrity of the United States and to encourage the assimilation process whereby the different ethnic/cultural groups are helped to internalize and champion those values and beliefs that hold American culture together and give our nation its unity. Our American motto, “e pluribus unum” (out of many, one) points us beyond our differences to the values and beliefs that define us as Americans. However, this commitment to assimilation does not require us to negate our unique identities or deny our ancestral roots.

Walls have served two important functions throughout civilized history — to protect from danger and to define a people’s identity. Perhaps it is the right time to build a wall that will help our nation to define itself and then be able to welcome immigrants into a peaceful, safe, orderly and productive society where every person’s life is recognized as a precious gift from God.

The Rev. Duane R. Lindberg, Ph.D., American studies, is presiding pastor (bishop) emeritus of the American Association of Lutheran Churches.

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