My grandfather had a scar on his face. It extended across his right cheek, from his ear lobe to his lower jaw. It was thick, ragged and ugly; as it had never been surgically repaired.
The coal miners in the Scranton area of Pennsylvania went on strike in the early 1900s. This was at a time when there was no safety net. If you didn’t work, you didn’t eat. The workers at the mine could barely support their families; thus the strike.
The mine owners sent recruiters to Sicily and convinced my grandfather; a shepherd who lived in a corrupt society dominated by Mafia thugs and ennobled clergy, that life would be better in America. The next thing Grandpa knew, he was walking into a coal mine while a bunch of angry men on strike were screaming at him in a language he did not understand. Suddenly, a man with a knife slashed his face.
My grandfather’s immigration to the United States was legal; unlike those pouring over our borders today, but that is not the point. Immigration in this country has often pitted workers against immigrants and now with a large safety net, immigrants against tax payers.
This issue does not split evenly among party lines, which is why President Trump has been unable to resolve it. Years ago the Democratic base consisted of more working class people who viewed illegals as competition. Bill Clinton, Barack Obama and Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer once made strong statements against illegal immigration. In fact it was President Reagan, not a Democratic president, who granted 3 million illegals amnesty in 1987 in return for border security. As the law was never enforced, 20 million more illegals poured into the country.
Because the illegals who received amnesty had disproportionately poured into California, an interesting phenomenon occurred. These new citizens – most who received welfare and free health care – voted overwhelmingly Democratic. This previously Republican bastion became a Democratic stronghold in only 20 years. The Democrats took notice. Allowing open borders and amnesty for new arrivals was the path to power. Bastions of Republican power such as Arizona and Texas will follow California if the Democrats get their way.
Meanwhile, the Chamber of Commerce branch of the Republican Party, led by the Wall Street Journal, favors more immigration for the same reason the coal company wanted my grandfather to come to America: it increases corporate profits by depressing wages.
This problem is further compounded by the desire of many in the Middle East and Latin America to escape endless wars and non-functioning corrupt governments. To the chagrin of our ruling class, most Americans agree with President Trump’s recent decision to remove troops from Syria and Afghanistan. The American people are tired of endless wars that produce nothing but more debt and the body bags of minorities and poor rural whites. But the refugee crisis sparked by our intervention is inundating Western Europe, and to a lesser extent, the United States too.
Mexico and Central American have devolved into narco-terrorist states, where police and government officials are given the option of “plumba or plata” – “lead or silver.” As most opt for the “plata,” the average hard-working denizen of these areas is forced to live in a society run by thugs and murderers. Risking everything to come to the United States is a perfectly rational response.
Thus, our country now has a government shut down over the construction of a border wall that was President Trump’s most memorable campaign promise. I don’t know how this will end, but I suspect some sort of face-saving compromise will be found for both parties after a requisite period of chest thumping.
But I do know this. If the man who slashed Grandpa’s face were reincarnated, he would undoubtedly click the lever for Donald Trump.
Joe Bentivegna is an ophthalmologist in Rocky Hill.