Stephen Miller TKOs Jim Acosta

The exchange illustrated how advocates of high levels of immigration are often the ones who rely on an ignorant emotionalism to make their case.

WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 02: Senior Advisor to the President for Policy Stephen Miller talks to reporters about President Donald Trump's support for creating a 'merit-based immigration system' in the James Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House August 2, 2017 in Washington, DC. Earlier in the day President Donald Trump signed bipartisan legislation into law placing new sanctions on Russia and reducing his ability to lift the sanctions on Moscow.

By Rich Lowry Published on August 4, 2017

When Donald Trump’s policy adviser Stephen Miller stepped into the White House briefing room Wednesday to defend a plan for reducing levels of legal immigration, Jim Acosta of CNN was aghast and let everyone know it.

Put aside that Acosta believed it was his role to argue one side of a hot-button issue. The exchange illustrated how advocates of high levels of immigration are often the ones who — despite their self-image as the rational bulwark against runaway populism — rely on an ignorant emotionalism to make their case.

The Cotton-Perdue Bill

At issue is the bill sponsored by Republican Sens. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and David Perdue of Georgia to halve legal immigration. The legislation would scale back so-called chain migration — immigrants bringing relatives, who bring more relatives — and institute a merit-based system for green cards based on ability to speak English, educational attainment and job skills.

Offended by the idea of prioritizing higher-skilled immigrants, Acosta wanted to know how such a policy would be consistent with the Statue of Liberty. When Miller pointed out that Lady Liberty was conceived as a symbol of … liberty, and that the famous Emma Lazarus poem was added later, Acosta accused him of “national park revisionism” — even though Miller was correct.

At the dedication of the statue in 1886, President Grover Cleveland declared that the statue’s “stream of light shall pierce the darkness of ignorance and man’s oppression until Liberty enlightens the world.” He did not mention comprehensive immigration reform.

Lazarus’ poem was added in a plaque in 1903. The words are not, as Acosta and so many others believe, emblazoned on the statue itself — the plaque is now displayed in an exhibition within the pedestal.

Making 21st-century policy in accord with late-19th-century poetry makes no sense. We don’t ask, say, whether naval appropriations are in keeping with Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s The Building of the Ship

All of this might seem pedantic, but the underlying debate is over the legitimacy of reducing levels of immigration and crafting a policy mindful, above anything else, of the national interest. Miller clearly has the best of this argument.

Poetry and a Refugee Cap

One, making 21st-century policy in accord with late-19th-century poetry makes no sense. We don’t ask, say, whether naval appropriations are in keeping with Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s The Building of the Ship (“Thou, too, sail on, O Ship of State! Sail on, O Union, strong and great!”)

Two, the refugee cap in the Cotton-Perdue bill of 50,000 a year is in the ballpark of recent annual numbers. We actually admitted fewer refugees in the late 1970s and early 2000s, and the Statue of Liberty still stood.

Three, although Acosta objected to giving a preference to English speakers, knowing English helps people make it in this country, and it’s reasonable to want immigrants to speak the language. As Miller pointed out, this is already a requirement for naturalization.

The underlying debate is over the legitimacy of reducing levels of immigration and crafting a policy mindful, above anything else, of the national interest.

Fourth, despite the myth, immigration policy has been highly contested throughout American history, and levels have ebbed and flowed. Acosta seems to think that the status quo is the norm, when the past 40 years have represented a historic wave of immigration.

America’s Immigrant Population

Cotton-Perdue can’t be considered ungenerous in light of how latitudinarian we have been for so long. As the Pew Research Center notes, we have the largest immigrant population in the world. The share of the U.S. population that is foreign-born will soon eclipse the record of 15 percent from around the turn of the 20th century.

The Cotton-Perdue merit system for green cards is hardly know-nothingism. Given how the bill cribs from the system in Canada, it could be described with that cliched banal phrase: “a worthwhile Canadian initiative.”

And an emphasis on skills will take some of the pressure of immigration off the country’s low-skilled workers. Employers may complain about losing access to immigrant labor, but it is simply not true that there are jobs that Americans won’t do. Almost every occupational category in the country has a majority of native-born workers.

If nothing else, Cotton-Perdue will force a debate in an area in which thoughtless sentimentality has long dominated — and if the Miller-Acosta exchange is any indication, will be difficult to dislodge.

 

Rich Lowry can be reached via e-mail: comments.lowry@nationalreview.com

Copyright 2017 by King Features Syndicate

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  • Oh, horrors! Trump wants people who will actually strengthen the nation! Oh, horrors!

    • Mensa Member

      Trump wants to block the immigrants who make our agriculture affordable.

      Sounds like a disaster for one of our few competitive industries left.

      • The left-wing elites want us to let anyone and everyone in without any checks whatsoever. Why? Because that’s how they get their agents of destruction in. Trump, though, is saying “No!” We will thoroughly vet everyone who wants to come legally, and deport the rest.

        If you have a problem with that, YOU are the problem, NOT Trump.

  • Mensa Member

    As soon as Miller starts into “I am shocked” (So shocked!) you can tell it’s all BS after that. Classic bluster to avoid the quest. Any debate judge would just chortle over that fake outrage.

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