Trump’s Immigration Reform is Tone Deaf | Jose-Antonio Orosco

Trump’s Immigration Reform is Tone Deaf | Jose-Antonio Orosco

President Trump laid out a new plan for immigration reform in his State of the Union address. It calls for building a wall with Mexico, a path to citizenship for Dreamers, and eliminating family sponsorship or chain migration policies.

It’s not clear whether Congress will pick up on these suggestions but one thing seems obvious: The Trump plan will reduce the ethnic and racial diversity of the United States in the future.

Both the conservative Cato Institute and the Washington Post have analyzed the plan and estimate that it would eliminate between 300,000 and half a million immigrants annually. Most of those cuts would come from Asia, Africa and Latin America. In other words, Trump’s plan would keep America white for some time.

The White House’s plan is not something forward looking; in fact, it restores immigration priorities that were in place for most of the twentieth century. The U.S. restricted immigration on the basis of race throughout most of its history. It insisted that those few immigrants that made it would have to assimilate or “Americanize” in order to stay.

Today, a majority of Americans insist that immigrants should be willing to give up part of their cultures in order to become Americans. During his campaign, President Trump complained that Muslim immigrants were not assimilating into U.S. culture. A recent Pew Trust poll reveals that about half of Muslims immigrants do think of themselves as Muslims first, and then Americans. But the poll also revealed that about 46 percent of Christians in the U.S. feel the same way about their religious identity. These kinds of double standards demonstrate that we have still have trouble imagining what a diverse country means.

About a hundred years ago, a play opened in Washington, D.C. that gave us the metaphor for understanding the role of immigrants in the U.S. That play was titled “The Melting Pot.” It told the story of immigrants coming here and shedding their cultural baggage in order to forge new lives. Almost immediately, the philosopher Horace Kallen rejected this model and suggested a new way to understand what a diverse nation could look like.

Kallen thought the melting pot worked to boil down differences into a bland mixture. He believed that those who talked about assimilation were really insisting that immigrants try to mimic the ways of life of the white, Protestant, settlers in order to be accepted. Indeed, immigration reform in 1924 heavily restricted immigrants who didn’t come from Northern and Western Europe because the thought was those peoples couldn’t easily assimilate into U.S. culture.

Kallen recommended we reject the melting pot and take up new metaphor: the orchestra. His idea was that an orchestra works not by insisting on a unison of voices, but on a harmony of difference. Think of a choir: You have bass, baritone, tenor, soprano and alto. They don’t all sing the same musical notes in performance, but their voices complement one another to make a complete song. Kallen wanted us to try to imagine how different immigrant cultures could be allowed to pursue their own traditions, while at the same time harmonizing with one another and with the great political values of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

The US has always struggled with how to incorporate diverse peoples into a modern democracy. Kallen insisted that part of this work had to be about our imagination and the way we talk and listen to one another across cultural differences. Trump’s plan would be like insisting that all voices of the choir have to sing baritone in order to make beautiful music.

His plan is not innovative; it’s tone deaf to the current needs of our society.

José-Antonio Orosco, Ph.D, writes for PeaceVoice and is Associate Professor of Philosophy: School of History, Philosophy, and Religion; Director, Oregon State University Peace Studies Program. He is the author of “Toppling the Melting Pot: Immigration and Multiculturalism in American Pragmatism” (2016) and other scholarly works.

More in Opinion

Steve Powell
2020 vision: Kitsap fared COVID-19 fairly well

Like the rest of the country, Kitsap County has been learning as… Continue reading

Working from home is here to stay

With COVID-19 vaccines being widely dispensed, will an end to this pandemic… Continue reading

Amazing grace: It’s easier to say it than live it

Without grace, our public discourse will continue to suffer. “Grace,” according to… Continue reading

Trans movement should not extend to athletics

Civil rights legislation always has its genesis in humanitarian principles: protecting the… Continue reading

A big step toward accountability for habitat impacts

Habitat loss and damage is the driving factor for the decline of… Continue reading

Wildfires were ‘Big Polluters’ in 2020

While the coronavirus and its devastating effects on people and economies worldwide… Continue reading

.
Slow down Chinese immigration for national security

A Chinese spy scandal is rocking Capitol Hill. The sordid tale is… Continue reading

Dr. Gib Morrow
All health care workers need to step up to vaccinate everyone

By Dr. Gib Morrow The first shipments of COVID-19 vaccine – a… Continue reading

Wreaths honor fallen, even during pandemic

Christmas is an especially difficult time for anyone grieving for lost loved… Continue reading

Most Read