Eighteen years ago, in a distant time known as BK (before kids), my wife and I tossed backpacks on and took a fascinating trek through portions of Europe.
On an overnight train from Paris to Prague, we splurged and got a sleeper car. In the wee hours of the next morning, we were jolted from our slumber by a Czech border officer shouting what seemed to be the only word he knew in English: PASSPORT! As I stumbled through getting the door unlocked, I had visions of being tossed into a dungeon-like prison never to be seen again.
Back then, I still had what were erroneous notions that the journey to Prague, where we were visiting a friend, was going to be like stepping into the old Soviet Union, which had crumbled about a decade earlier. Prague, it turned out, was a beautiful city and one of the favorites of our trip.
Those Czech guards, though, were serious about making sure I was who I purported to be, that my time in their country would be brief and that I would follow all the rules.
Flash forward to about 10 days ago. My wife and I were fortunate to be able to take our boys, 15 and 13, to soak in a bit of the world in England, Italy and Rome. We wanted them to experience an overnight train, too. Again, we went through the middle-of-the-night passport check. This time, it was a female French officer who knocked gently and spoke kindly as she compared the photos on our passports to the groggy faces looking back at her. It was a far more pleasant interruption in a night's sleep. But the gun on her hip and the badge on her shirt made it clear: I was a visitor to their country, I was welcome and I needed to obey the rules.
Border control in Europe is a fact of life. It has to be with so many nations packed together as they are. I didn't see any big border walls, but it was clear borders meant something.
As they should.
I didn't visit Facebook much while I was on my trip, partly to save money and partly because a vacation from work is made even better by a semi-vacation from social media. But once I got back to the States, I jumped back in. I was amused to see a posting -- maybe it was inspired by dissension-seeking Russian hackers -- that asked "Why do Republicans hate immigrants?"
Ah, another example of the thorough analysis of complex political issues within the world of social media.
Maybe a few Republicans hate immigrants. Heck, there are probably some Democrats who do, if we're looking to oversimplify things. But by and large, I think Americans of all stripes understand immigrants want a chance to better their lives and those of their families in the best way they can. Who can fault anyone for that?
But it's not anti-immigrant to demand your nation's immigration laws function effectively and that border enforcement actually enhances a nation's ability to control who comes, who goes and who doesn't.
Where some conservatives go wrong is in blaming the immigrants and crying about our nation being "invaded." Save all of that frustration for our own government, which has proven incapable of developing an effective system of immigration and enforcement.
Oh look, I'm blaming America. I can't decide whether I'm being like Barack Obama or Donald Trump. Depends on whether a Russian is standing alongside, I suppose.
Where I fault Republicans like Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton these days is that they want both wall-like enforcement at the border and a shrinking of legal immigration, as though our nation has lost its capacity to absorb folks from other countries. Well, the non-European ones, anyway.
Why not amp up a robust system of legal immigration that eliminates the years-long waits people face to get into this country according to the rules? Let's create hope by letting more people in legally. Then our legitimate efforts to clamp down at the border won't seem so harsh -- that is, unless we're still separating children from their moms and dads.
Commentary on 07/23/2018
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