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Bret Stephens: Only mass deportation can make America great again

In the Age of Trump, it is worthwhile to remember that newcomers to America are more likely to work hard and to value our country’s greatness because they realize it’s precious, Bret Stephens writes.
In the Age of Trump, it is worthwhile to remember that newcomers to America are more likely to work hard and to value our country’s greatness because they realize it’s precious, Bret Stephens writes. AP

In the matter of immigration, mark this conservative columnist down as strongly pro-deportation. The U.S. has too many people who don’t work hard, don’t believe in God, don’t contribute much to society and don’t appreciate the greatness of the American system.

They need to return whence they came.

I speak of Americans whose families have been in this country for a few generations. Complacent, entitled and often shockingly ignorant on basic American law and history, they are the stagnant pool in which our national prospects risk drowning.

On point after point, America’s nonimmigrants are failing our country. Crime? A study by the Cato Institute notes that nonimmigrants are incarcerated at nearly twice the rate of illegal immigrants and at more than three times the rate of legal ones. Educational achievement? Just 17 percent of the finalists in the 2016 Intel Science Talent Search — often called the “Junior Nobel Prize” — were the children of U.S.-born parents.

More illegal immigrants identify as Christian (83 percent) than do Americans (70.6 percent), a fact right-wing immigration restrictionists might ponder as they bemoan declines in church attendance. Business creation? Nonimmigrants start businesses at half the rate of immigrants and accounted for fewer than half the companies started in Silicon Valley between 1995 and 2005.

The rate of out-of-wedlock births for U.S.-born mothers exceeds the rate for foreign-born moms, 42 percent to 33 percent. The rate of delinquency and criminality among nonimmigrant teens considerably exceeds that of their immigrant peers.

Bottom line: So-called real Americans are screwing up America. Maybe they should leave, so that we can replace them with new and better ones: newcomers who are more appreciative of what the United States has to offer, more ambitious for themselves and their children, and more willing to sacrifice for the future. In other words, just the kind of people we used to be — when “we” had just come off the boat.

OK, so I’m jesting about deporting “real Americans” en masse. But then the threat of mass deportations has been no joke with this administration.

The Department of Homeland Security seemed prepared to extend an Obama administration program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, which allows the children of illegal immigrants to continue to study and work in the United States. The decision would have reversed one of Donald Trump’s ugly campaign threats to deport these kids, whose only crime was to have been brought to the U.S. by their parents.

Yet the administration is still committed to deporting their parents, and on Friday the DHS announced that even DACA remains under review.

Beyond the inhumanity of toying with people’s lives this way, there’s also the shortsightedness of it. How does America become great again by berating and evicting its most energetic, enterprising, law-abiding, job-creating, idea-generating, self-multiplying and God-fearing people?

I have always thought of the United States as a country that belongs first to its newcomers — the people who strain hardest to become a part of it because they realize that it’s precious, and who do the most to remake it so that our ideas may stay fresh. That used to be a cliché, but in the Age of Trump it needs to be explained all over again. We’re a country of immigrants — by and for them, too. Americans who don’t get it should get out.

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