August 29, 2018

Suggestions From Resident Who Attended August 23 Panel Discussion on Immigration

To the Editor:

In re Donald Gilpin’s article, “Panel Experts Will Discuss Immigration, Provide Information on Multiple Issues” [Town Topics, Aug. 22]: Having attended the panel discussion on August 23, I appreciated the sponsors organizing this public forum in Princeton. I have two suggestions for future panel discussions:

  1. Try to find panelists with different positions on the issues discussed. Failing that, encourage panelists to acknowledge the merit of positions other than their own. Until I asked them about it, none of the panelists addressed the merits of limiting immigration into the United States or of enforcing immigration law.
  2. Try to find experts who know the limits of their expertise and are careful in what they say. I was dismayed by three statements in particular:
  1. In Donald Gilpin’s article, Executive Director of the Latin American Legal Defense and Education Fund (LALDEF) Adriana Abizadeh is quoted as saying, “All of the immigration policy changes we have seen over the last 20 months have been xenophobic.” That’s quite a claim. It suggests an unwillingness to consider other motives, and a lack of desire to find common ground with those who disagree. Starting from there, how likely is persuasion or reconciliation?
  2. Professor Patricia Fernandez-Kelly, director of the Center for Migration and Development at Princeton University, told the audience that the term “chain migration” was coined by Donald Trump just recently for derogatory use in his presidential campaign. In fact, “chain migration” has been used without negative connotation in immigration studies since at least the 1960s. To suggest that the term is necessarily pejorative needlessly alienates those who use it with no such intent.
  3. It was thoughtful to include a religious leader on the panel, Brother Christopher McNabb of Trinity Church (Episcopal) in Princeton. I did not find his ideas about immigration policy well thought out, however. When I asked the panelists if they could think of any good reasons for a nation to limit immigration, Brother Christopher said that while nations have the right to secure their borders, most restrictions on legal immigration to the United States are not related to national security. That is plausible. Brother Christopher went on to say that if we would “follow the money” we would find that big business uses its financial (lobbying?) power to restrict immigration into the United States. Odd. U.S. businesses are among the biggest proponents of liberalizing our immigration laws, which would increase their access to workers and tend to keep wages down.

I appreciate the panelists’ willingness to discuss immigration in a public forum. In an effort to understand each other better and reconcile our differences, let’s do our homework and respectfully engage the best arguments of those with whom we disagree.


Nassau Street