Home Opinion YOUR VOICE: Hostages for Ransom Politics

YOUR VOICE: Hostages for Ransom Politics

By Jack Stephenson. January 29, 2019. BLOWING ROCK, NC — Holding innocent hostages for ransom is dysfunctional politics, and it is an embarrassment for Americans. If there is a burden to bear, all Americans should bear it equitably.  It is irrational, if not immoral to punish an innocent segment of our citizens to achieve a political objective.  The end does not justify the means.    

This anti-democratic procedure has occurred before.  A partial government shutdown generated by a budget dispute occurred in 1995.  The use of a government shutdown in an attempt to defeat health insurance occurred in 2013. 

The end does not justify the means.

There is nothing in our constitution that provides a license for closure of government services as a means of political bargaining. 

More than 90 million Americans who were eligible to vote did not exercise that right during the last election.  Could their disenchantment have something to do with the behavior of our elected officials?  Does this type of dysfunctional governance set a good example for young people?    

For most of recorded history, humans have lived in some type of dictatorship or in chaos.  Experiments with democracy date to ancient Greece and Rome, more than 2000 years ago.  It took a long time to get to America’s concept of constitutional government, divided powers, and election of government officials by all citizens.  We are still struggling to perfect the process.  Now we need one more adjustment.  We need a law that prohibits closing a segment of our government and unjustly punishing some people for the purpose of achieving a political objective.

Immigration has often been a difficult issue for America.  In America’s early days, immigrants from northern Europe arrived in large numbers.  They were needed to fill a continent and build a nation.  In the 1850s, employers brought 250,000 Chinese laborers to the U.S. to work in the gold mines and help build the transcontinental railroad.  That caused a reaction in California because it posed a threat to jobs for Americans.  Eventually, both California and the national government adopted “exclusion” laws that prohibited most Chinese immigration.  During WW I, the U.S. called four million males to military service creating a labor shortage.  Mexican laborers were welcomed to help with crop harvests.  Employers and their political representatives have since lobbied, extensively, to keep Mexican “low cost laborers” available in the United States. 

U.S. immigration has been regulated by country quota, by employment issues, and by refugee status.

During the 1930s—the Nazi era—many German Jews were attempting to emigrate from Germany to other countries including the United States.   That was the time of the Great Depression.  America reduced its legal immigrant quota by 85 percent to protect American jobs, and many potential immigrants with urgent needs were denied entry to the United States. 

After WW II, refugees from war-torn Europe were welcomed to the U.S.  In the wake of the Cuban Bay of Pigs fiasco, Cuban refugees were welcomed to the U.S.  After our less than desirable exodus from Vietnam, we welcomed Vietnamese refugees.

U.S. immigration has been regulated by country quota, by employment issues, and by refugee status.  Immigration is a vexing problem in a world with seven and a half billion people, many of whom are in frequent turmoil.  The U.S. Congress has passed 34 laws regulating immigration.  The U.S. Supreme Court has issued two significant decisions addressing immigrant status.  In 1971, the Court held that immigrants are entitled to protections granted by the Fourteenth Amendment, specifically entitling immigrants to welfare benefits.  In 1982, the Court held that the Fourth Amendment entitled immigrant children to public education.

Immigration issues are complex and unsettled because we live in an ever-changing world.  Neither a useful quick fix nor a permanent solution seems likely. 

About Jack Stevenson

Jack Stevenson is retired. He served two years in Vietnam as an infantry officer, retired from military service, and worked three years as a U.S. Civil Service employee.  He also worked in Egypt as an employee of the former Radio Corporation of America (RCA).  Currently, he reads history, follows issues important to Americans, and writes commentary for community newspapers. His primary residence is in Pensacola, FL.



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