The first layer of conservative grousing about President Barack Obama’s immigration executive action has been mostly complaints about separation of powers and the president-who-would-be-king’s “lawless...executive diktat.” Close behind that oddball hyperbole come others who claim that Obama’s shift is somehow “destructive” to American workers and the country at large.
Deep down, though, I think that this round of American immigration debates are really driven by competing visions of what America is — and ought to be. To put a sharper point on it, there’s a tension etched into the national seal on those dollar bills in your wallet. Each American’s ideological mileage on immigration varies according to which end of the “e pluribus unum” (“Out of many, one”) equation pulls strongest on their heartstrings. Either we’re a country primarily constituted by our breadth of diversity (‘plures’), or an ‘unum’ nation that constitutes a common cultural, racial, ethnic, and linguistic whole.
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