Letters and Op-Eds

Welcome to the OFIR Letters and Op-Eds section.  Here you can read Letters to the Editor and Op-Eds that have been published in various newspapers and news sources.

Victor Davis Hanson

This article first appeared on the Hoover Institution site.

The arguments for ignoring illegal immigration are as well-known as the self-interested motives that drive it.

In the abstract, open-borders advocates argue that in a globalized culture, borders are becoming reactionary and artificial constructs. They should not interrupt more natural ebbs and flows of migrant populations.

More concretely, an array of vested interests sees advantage in dismantling the border: employers in hospitality, construction, food processing and agriculture prefer hard-working low-wage immigrants, whose social needs are often subsidized by the government and who are reluctant to organize for higher wages. 

The Democratic Party welcomes in impoverished immigrants from Latin America and Mexico. It hopes to provide generous social welfare assistance and thereby shepherd new arrivals and their offspring into the salad bowl of victimization and identity politics—and thereby change the electoral map of key states from red to blue.

La Raza activists see unchecked illegal immigration as useful in maintaining a large pool of unassimilated and poor foreign nationals who look to group leaders, thereby ensuring the continuance of what has become an industry of ethnic activism and careerism.

Mexico—which is now offering advice to illegal immigrants on how best to avoid U.S. federal immigration authorities—has the most to gain by porous borders. It envisions the United States as a relief valve destination to export its own poor and desperate rather than to have them agitate and demand costly social services from Mexico City.

Mexico enjoys some $25 billion in annual remittances, predicated on the unspoken assumption that its poor and hard-working expatriates can only afford to send such vast sums out of the United States through the magnanimity of the American social welfare system that helps subsidize families to free up hard-earned cash. Mexico has learned that its own expatriates are loyal proponents who romanticize Mexico—the farther away and longer they are absent from it.

U.S. border patrol agents stand at an open gate on the fence along the Mexico border at the Border Field State Park, California, on November 19, 2016. Victor Davis Hanson writes that in California, thousands of illegal aliens operate cars without mandatory insurance, driver’s licenses and registrations. Mike Blake/reuters

Yet lost in this conundrum are the pernicious effects of illegal immigration on the idea of citizenship in a consensual society. In the Western constitutional tradition, citizenship was based upon shared assumptions that were often codified in foundational constitutional documents.

The first pillar of citizenship is the idea that the nation-state has the sole right to create and control its own borders. The duty of all Western constitutions, dating back to those of the Greek city-states, was to protect their own citizens within clearly defined and defensible borders. Without a finite space, no consensual society can make rules and laws for its own, enhance and preserve commonalities of language and culture, or raise a military to protect its own self-interest.

Borders are not normally artificial or post-colonial constructs, but natural boundaries that usually arise to reflect common bonds of language, culture, habit and tradition. These ties are sometimes fragile and limited, and cannot operate on universal terms; indeed, they become attenuated when borders disappear and residents not only have little in common, but lack the mechanisms or even the desire to assimilate and integrate their migrant populations.

When borders are fluid and unenforced, it inevitably follows that assimilation and integration also become lax, as society loses a sense of who, or even where, their residents are. And the idea that the Bill of Rights should apply to those beyond U.S. borders may be a noble sentiment, but the practical effect of such utopianism is to open a Pandora’s box of impossible enforcement, affronts to foreign governments, endless litigation and a diversion of resources away from protecting the rights of citizens at home.

Residency is also confused with citizenship, but they are no more the same than are guests at a dinner party and the party’s hosts, who own the home. 

A country reverts to tribalism unless immigrants enter it legally—often based on the host’s determination of how easily and rapidly they can become citizens, and the degree to which they can benefit their adopted country—and embrace its customs, language and habits.

The Balkans, Rwanda and Iraq remind us that states without common citizen ties, affinities, rights and responsibilities become fragmented and violent, as their diverse populations share no investment in the welfare of the commonwealth. What plagues contemporary Iraq and Syria is the lack of clearly defined borders, and often shifting and migrating populations that have no stake in the country of their residence, resulting in competing tribes that vie for political control to aid their own and punish the Other.

A second pillar of citizenship is the sanctity of the law.

What also separates Western and Westernized nations from often impoverished and unsecure states is a notion that citizens entrust their elected representatives with the crafting of laws and then show their fealty by obeying the resulting legislation.

The sanctity of the entire legal system in a republic rests on two important corollaries: citizens cannot pick and choose which laws they obey—either on the grounds that some are deemed bothersome and not in their own self-interest, or on the pretext that they are minor and their violation does not impair society at large.

Citizenship instead demands that unpopular or unworkable laws be amended or repealed by the proper legislative and judicial branches of government, not by popular neglect or violation.

Once immigration law goes unenforced, there are pernicious ramifications. First, citizens question why all laws are not equally subject to nullification. If the immigrant is excused from obeying immigration law, is the citizen likewise exempt from IRS statutes or simple traffic laws?

Second, the immigrant himself adopts a mindset that obeying the law is unimportant. Currently among illegal aliens, there is an epidemic of identity theft, forged government affidavits, and the use of fake social security numbers.

Open-borders advocates do not disagree that these violations undermine a society, but instead argue that such desperate measures are needed for impoverished illegal aliens to survive in the shadows. Perhaps, but equally true is that once an illegal resident discovers that some of the laws of the host are not enforced, he then assumes others will not be either.

In truth, illegal aliens lose respect for their hosts, concluding that if Americans do not care to enforce their own laws, foreign nationals need not abide by them either. In reductionist terms, when an immigrant’s first act when entering the United States involves breaking the law, then all subsequent violations become only that much easier.

Besides secure borders and respect for the laws, a third tenet of citizenship is the idea of equal applicability of the law. Citizens in modern Western societies are assured that their laws are applied in the same manner to all citizens regardless of differences in class, gender, race, or religion.

Illegal immigration insidiously erodes such equality under the law. When millions of foreign nationals reside illegally in the United States, a myriad of laws must be enforced unequally to perpetuate the initial transgression. Illegal immigration does not just imply illegal entry, but also continued illegal residence and all that entails on a daily basis.

Sanctuary cities protect illegal aliens from federal immigration agencies in a way that is not true of American citizens who arrive at airports and must go through customs, with no exemption from federal agents examining their passports and personal histories. If crimes or infractions are found, there is no safe space at an airport exempt from federal enforcement.

In California, thousands of illegal aliens have operated automobiles without mandatory insurance, driver’s licenses and registrations and, in some municipalities, are not arrested for such violations—even as American citizens who cannot claim such apparent mitigating circumstances are.

In my own vicinity in rural California, there are hundreds of dwellings where multiple families in trailers, sheds, and garages reside, employing illegal water, power and sewage hookups. Most are more or less left alone by county authorities. The apparent rationale is that such violations are too chronic and widespread to be addressed, or that it simply does not pay for cash-strapped agencies to enforce the law in the case of those who are unable or unwilling to pay substantial fines.

Either way, the nearby citizen who is hounded by county or federal authorities on matters concerning the proper height of his mailbox, or the exact distance between a new leach line and his existing well, feels that the laws are unequally applied and loses confidence in the value of his own citizenship. He often sees it either as no real advantage over mere residency, or perhaps even a disadvantage.

In sum, there are several reasons to put a stop to illegal immigration. But among the most important and forgotten is the insidious destruction of what it means to be a citizen.

Victor Davis Hanson is a Martin and Illie Anderson senior fellow at the Hoover Institution.


Ken Greger
The Oregonian
I'm a senior executive who loves America. I am boggled by all the fuss over the travel ban. The intention has never been a permanent ban, but, rather, a starting place to optimize the vetting in order to protect Americans and innocent visitors to our country.  The immigration process is a moving train and Trump officials had to jump on it somewhere as a starting point.  Let's not forget the Obama administration had a substantial list of immigration issues and concerns.
Whether those protesting want to get real or not, it doesn't change the fact that the very few countries being vetted (1) have such poor security they cannot provide the United States with any assurance as to who is getting out and (2) they are countries determined by the U.S. State Department to harbor terrorists who have verifiably committed acts of terror.  No one is suggesting everyone in said countries is a terrorist, but the track record demands vetting.
So now Hawaii, for example, is complaining that the ban hurts tourism.  Ask yourself - what percentage of that tourism comes from these countries?   I doubt that Syrians frequent Hawaii! Don't any of those complaining understand that a terrorist act and the death of innocents is a far greater threat to tourism?
Does anyone remember how you felt about America and our need for protection after 9-11?  Just imagine being hit like that again, or worse. You'll all be screaming for something to be done!
Trump is trying to be proactive.  Do you really want to wait to wake up when thousands lie dead again?
Ken Greger, West Linn
Gary Bales
Statesman Journal, Salem
I find it amusing the way activists and politicians misuse the English language to promote their agendas. They like to refer to people entering the USA from other countries without permission as illegal or undocumented immigrants when, in fact, there is no such thing.
An immigrant is someone who applies and, after going through the legal process, receives permission to enter a country. Those who ignore the process and enter without permission are committing a crime and are criminals.
These people continue to commit other crimes when they take up residence and employment. If they give a false SSN, they are committing identity theft, which is a felony. If they do not have a Green Card or SSN, they cannot file state or federal tax returns which are also crimes. In total, that is six crimes they are committing.
There is a saying amongst criminals: “If you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime.” Unless they fell out of a plane, their actions were intended and criminal and they shouldn’t cry or beg when caught.
Bob Curtis
Statesman Journal, Salem
I read with interest and dismay the article about Salem becoming an “inclusive city.” I wonder why city leaders would call it “inclusive city” rather than what they mean: “sanctuary city.”
I fully support legal immigration and law and order. Without law and order, we would become an anarchy. Anyone, including cities, could pick and choose to follow any law, or not, as convenient.
The subject of sanctuary cities or organizations is popular right now because of the political environment, but law and order are not, and should not, be based on popularity or expediency. I would not trade our system for any other.
An issue I fear is that if cities such as Salem can pick and choose what federal laws to follow or enforce, what would happen if we get city officials who have issues with federal laws such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) or the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA)?
If not responsible for creating the slippery slope to anarchy, Salem has jumped onto the slope with both feet, only because it is the popular thing to do, not the right thing to do.
Bob Curtis, Salem
Frank W. Brown

There are two definitions of idiocy.

Webster defines idiocy as “something notably stupid or foolish.”

My definition of idiocy is the state of Oregon joining the lawless suit against President Trump’s travel ban. The Constitution is clear that the president controls immigration as part of his duty to protect the United States.

This lawsuit will fail, and Oregon’s government will look like idiots. Liberalism is, indeed, a mental illness.

Don Carson
The Register-Guard

Ruby Bennett was spot on with her March 8 letter (“Can’t pick and choose to obey laws”). Illegal is illegal.

I’m tired of hearing all these illegal-immigrant-lovers harping about why we shouldn’t deport people who sneak into this country. And why are they referred to as “immigrants” and “undocumented workers”? What part of “illegal alien” do you not understand?

Twenty seven years ago, I went to a foreign country to marry a girl I’d been corresponding with. I came home and started the lengthy process mandated to get her into this country. Ten months later, including time and the hassle to go see a U.S. congressman, I was able to send for her. A few months after she arrived, we had to go for an interview to see if we were living as man and wife. As you can imagine, this all cost more than a few shekels.

So now these anti-Trumpsters want to let all those folks who came here without due process just stay and suck the life out of the United States. I realize many of the illegal immigrants came here with good intentions, but there’s a right way, and a wrong way, to come to this country. Do you suppose the government, or the illegal immigrant supporters, are going to pay back the monies extracted to get our legal wives here?

Why don’t we use people who are caught sneaking across the border, to build “The Wall?” For first-time offenders, 30 days at the build site. Second time, six months. Third time, you stay on the wall until it’s finished.


Richard F. LaMountain

Since President Donald Trump's election, the boards of Portland Public Schools and Portland Community College have declared their schools 'sanctuary' institutions that will seek to protect illegal-immigrant students from federal authorities. In doing so, the schools flout 8 U.S. Code 1324, which criminalizes 'any person who ... attempts to conceal, harbor, or shield from detection' illegal immigrants.

"Education," observed English philosopher Herbert Spencer, "has for its object the formation of character." And character, said Theodore Roosevelt, is "the decisive factor in the life of an individual and of nations alike."

What, then, will the effect be on young Americans and their nation when the adults charged with helping mold that character sow contempt for U.S. law?

Since President Donald Trump's election, the boards of Portland Public Schools and Portland Community College have declared their schools "sanctuary" institutions that will seek to protect illegal-immigrant students from federal authorities. In doing so, the schools flout 8 U.S. Code 1324, which criminalizes "any person who ... attempts to conceal, harbor, or shield from detection" illegal immigrants. More, they set an example that could profoundly harm both the youths entrusted to them and the nation at large.

As per Spencer, a central obligation of schools is to imbue students with good character. Without such character, they cannot become responsible adults.

In the civic realm, adults demonstrate character and responsibility via respect for their nation's sovereignty, the sine qua non of which is control of its physical border; for the representative democracy through which Americans make laws, which includes those that regulate the influx of foreign nationals; and for the authorities they empower to compel observance of those laws.

But perhaps the most fundamental attribute of responsible civic adulthood is this: The understanding that a stable, orderly society is served not by championing the interests of lawbreakers and enabling disobedience of laws with which one disagrees, but by seeking to change those laws through our fair and deliberative representative system.

What, then, do school policymakers tell the youths in their charge when they flaunt immigration laws enacted by their fellow Americans? What do they tell those students about a sovereign people's right to self-determination, border control and public order?

By their "sanctuary" example, do schools help mold those youths into responsible adults who respect orderly representative decision-making? Or do they further the anything-goes, "no borders" mentality that has the potential to undo the nation those youths live in and someday will lead?

The answers are clear. Schools' "sanctuary" policies subvert, and indeed work to negate, the fundaments of our representative self-government — the most important of which is our sovereign right to determine who enters our nation, when, and in what numbers. In doing so, they set a destructive example for the youths in their charge.

In May, Portland-area residents will elect directors to the PPS and PCC boards. Before casting their ballots, they should determine the candidates' positions on their schools' "sanctuary" policies and support only those who favor their repeal. And they should insist, in the future, that those schools strive to inculcate in students the character that breeds respect for Americans' national sovereignty and popular self-rule.

Ruby Bennett
Register Guard

I am growing tired of the continued hubbub over President Trump’s promise to deport the illegal aliens from our country. I am hoping that all illegals will be sent home.

We are a country of laws. If we weren’t, our country would be in the same disarray that the countries that the illegals are running from.

I stand behind President Trump’s intent to withhold all federal funds from sanctuaries. The idea that our state and our cities and counties declare themselves sanctuary areas is enough to make me sick to my stomach.

Since when do we pick and choose which laws we obey? The state and others choosing to protect criminals (and they become criminals when they sneak across our border, overstay their visas and steal Social Security cards and other ID) is disgraceful.

The citizens of this state have a right to the monies from the government to pay for necessary services for our safety and well being. And as far as President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, the parents are the culprits for bringing their children here and our government is not responsible for making their poor decisions right. We should adopt the same rules for our country that Mexico has. Read them sometime. Very interesting.

As far as their contributing to our economy is concerned, during my years as a district manager for a large tax firm none of them paid taxes. Dependents would pop up until they wiped out their tax liability. They received money back in the form of child tax credit or earned income credit. Or, if nothing else, a refund of any tax was withheld.

Elizabeth Van Staaveren

Efforts are underway to prey on public sympathy and gain legal status for the so-called DACA immigrants, who claim to have been brought here while they were young children and to have had no part in the decision to immigrate illegally.

First, the U.S. is not responsible for their being here illegally; the parents or other sponsors are responsible for the "children" being here illegally. Somehow, the parents seem to be forgotten in the pleas for exception.  If the "children" were deported, their illegally present parents could also be deported and thus the family would not "be torn apart."

Also, these wonderful children who have never known life outside the U.S. could take their talents and assets to the countries where they are citizens, and benefit that country.

Imagine what a huge burden and expense it would be to try to verify the claims of millions of persons that they were brought to the U.S. as children, involuntarily, and at what time they came, and their true age at arrival.

Most of the claims could not possibly be verified.  Such attempts are not worth the expense to taxpayers; this country is already indebted by trillions of dollars.

We should not feel guilty about deporting illegal aliens. They are citizens of another county and they owe it the respect and loyalty to return and help it according to their abilities.  If they wish later to immigrate to the U.S., they can follow the legal procedures prescribed for admittance.

Dan Davison

I read with interest that some schools saw their attendance drop to less than 50 percent during last Thursday's "Day Without Immigrants" demonstration.

Imagine what ongoing class sizes and the cost of education would be if we hadn't committed to schooling all of these foreign students. This comes during the continuing cry for more money for our schools.