Immigration: The Great Debate

By | September 2, 2015

[September 2, 2015]  I wrote about immigration into the United States, both legal and illegal, over a year ago (see links below) and how it has become one of the hottest topics in the U.S. presidential campaign.  However, immigration as a political topic goes much further than the Americas, extending into Europe and parts of Asia and that is why I now call it, the Great Debate.

I don’t use this term lightly and I am fully aware of its usage to describe the foundations of two historical trends.  First, Liberalism and the expansive role of a socialist-style government and its similarity to the French Revolution.  And, second Conservativism with its roots in capitalism and individualism (like strong property rights).  Yuval Levin in his book The Great Debate does an excellent job detailing those two trends.1

Immigration is a major issue forcing change in the political apparatus of many countries.  Whether this is for good or for bad is key to the great debate about its affect because social values matter and those values vary from country to country.  Immigration has overshadowed economic stagnation (such as the Greek crisis) and nearly all other topics except national security to which it is closely tied.  Germany and Italy are the latest examples of how the issue has exploded into their national consciousness.2,3

The massive immigration into the United States and other Western countries is seen, on the one hand, as an issue supporting both the historical underpinnings of those countries (the U.S. is a country of immigrants) and alignment with its most basic societal values (e.g., defender of the helpless, liberty, and freedom).  On the other hand, massive immigration is seen as a threat to national security, economic stability, and personal safety.  Politicians have taken sides and the rhetoric is often hyperbolic and making a worthwhile debate nearly impossible.

With violence in the Middle East and elsewhere that is driving people out of their homeland and the U.S. and Europe welcoming all with open arms, circumstances provide a perfect storm for mass immigration to occur.  This has lead to the rise of anti-establishment politicians who are opposed to what they call “unchecked” immigration.

What is lacking both in the U.S. and worldwide is any leader who can articulate a solution and unites people rather than dividing them as the great immigration debate has done.  To date, not only is there no solution being offered as a unifying effort but the divide between the two sides is growing.  This is highly problematic for a nation and will, among other things, see a drop in the confidence people have in their elected government.

This is not an easy time to me a national leader because no good solution is apparent.  But this is what separates the good leaders from the great.

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[Note: previous posts on Immigration]

  1. The Great Debate: Edmund Burke, Thomas Paine, and the Birth of Right and Left, Yuval Levin, 2013.



Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article everyday on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.