Quick take: The President's gaffe on immigration

It has been reported -- and the White House has responded to that reporting without denial or retraction -- that the President of the United States asked in a meeting, "Why are we having all these people from s***hole countries come here?"

Five quick notes on what is, at minimum, a profoundly embarrassing blunder (though I fear it's something much worse...a reflection of his true, thoughtless sentiment):

1. Immigrants have always tended to seek relief from poor conditions in their homelands. Why else would anyone dare to leave family, community, and everything else behind? The mass wave of Irish immigrants who came here in the 1800s left their homeland because of a potato famine. Most were only semi-skilled at best, coming from a poor country, practicing a widely-disliked religion, and moving here with little to offer; they came from a country that didn't even have the power to dislodge the occupying British imperial force.

2. A person's worth has nothing to do with what they bring to the economy, nor does it depend on the nature of the place from which they come. Every person ought to be judged on their own individual merits and their own personal character, and good people are the overwhelming majority in most places.

3. Rarely does the first generation of immigrants from any troubled place achieve overwhelming success in America. (Though it would be ignorant to ignore the fact that many do.) But the second generation -- their children -- are quite often very successful in America, because they appreciate the sacrifice of their parents but also value the freedom to achieve. Doesn't every reasonable parent want something better for their children?

4. America's competitive advantage in the world has long been extended by the fact we are a magnet for talent that is under-appreciated, under-developed, or under-utilized elsewhere in the world. That magnet isn't just our existing wealth, but rather the wide opportunity afforded to everyone who comes here. We retain that advantage in part by maintaining the moral high ground and welcoming all -- the chosen as well as the least.

5. Like it or not, we share the same planet and most of the same challenges with the countries dismissed so thoughtlessly by the President. Most problems of any real magnitude are now global, whether we like it or not. They won't get better because we avert our eyes and turn our backs on the people who suffer.

Brian Gongol

Brian Gongol

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