Much of my so-called career as a foreign correspondent was spent in countries that could accurately be described with the scatological adjective allegedly uttered by President Trump last week.
Back in 1984, for instance, I wrote a story for The New York Times from Nigeria about a program aimed at cleaning up Lagos, then an extraordinarily squalid and crime-ridden capital. I reported on the start of a "24-hour complaint service for the removal of 'environmental nuisances.' An advertisement for the service begins, 'Is there any dead body abandoned in your street?'"
It's important to add: I knew many Nigerians who were smart, hard-working and acutely aware that they were living in a dysfunctional state. Many wanted to get the hell out, go to America, land of liberty and opportunity.
I think a sensible immigration policy would favor such people, along with those fleeing dictatorships. At a time when many on the left are seeking to silence the right — even condoning violence as a means to "de-platform" their ideological and political opponents — it would be beneficial to have more citizens who, on a profound and personal level, understand why the Bill of Rights was written and now needs to be defended.
I'd be less eager to welcome Europeans — Norwegians among them — who condone intolerance, bigotry and hatred because that is what "multiculturalism" demands when it comes to "third world" cultures. Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a patriotic American born in Somalia, a place to which an excretory epithet might well be applied, tells her American and European critics: "You grew up in freedom, and you can spit on freedom because you don't know what it is not to have freedom."
Hundreds of millions of people around the world want to come to America. Can we agree that this country is unable to absorb them all? Actually, "the international community" does not. An ongoing U.N. campaign asserts that "migration is a positive global phenomenon" that "powers economic growth, reduces inequalities, connects diverse societies and helps us ride the demographic waves of population growth and decline."
If the American electorate doesn't hold with that view, if we don't want what's been happening in Europe to happen here, there's a solution: Put in place coherent policies. Decide whom to invite in, whom to turn away and whom to kick out. The stakes are high: Immigration policies of today will go a long way toward determining what America becomes tomorrow.
Most Republicans believe that reform begins with serious border security and a refusal to grant amnesty and citizenship to those who entered the U.S. illegally. Democrats want to ease the plight of those they call "undocumented." As Democratic strategist Jennifer Palmieri noted in a memo obtained last week by The Daily Caller, they also see the undocumented as a "critical component of the Democratic Party's future electoral success."
As to what Mr. Trump is accused of saying last week, my view is he shouldn't have said it — or anything like it. Call me an old fogey, but I think the president's speech — any president's speech — ought to be dignified, not least when his audience includes people eager to do him harm.
Communications 101: Just as athletes have coaches, so politicians should have communications professionals empowered to help them achieve clarity. Lacking that, over the weekend, Mr. Trump felt compelled to protest, "I am not a racist." Trust me: Most listeners took away the opposite impression, just as they did when President Nixon declared: "I am not a crook!"
The commentary published and broadcast in response to Mr. Trump's supposed remark has featured posturing and virtue-signaling, coupled with this non sequitur: "I'm descended from immigrants! My immigrant ancestors were good people! I'm a good person! Therefore immigration is a good thing and more of a good thing must be better!"
Actual policy proposals have been few and far between. Nor has much been said about such absurd programs as the visa "diversity lottery," which is based on the notion, as immigration expert Mark Krikorian has written, "that foreigners from all countries deserve an equal opportunity to move here, and those who don't qualify under existing categories must have a special one created just for them — affirmative action immigration, if you will, for Belarusians, Uzbeks, Iranians, Congolese, et al."
The diversity lottery weakens national security because, Mr. Krikorian adds, it "admits a disproportionate share of immigrants from terrorist breeding grounds, and creates new migration networks from those places where none existed before." Winners of the lottery bring in relatives who bring in relatives who bring in relatives in a never-ending process known as "chain migration."
As for the broader immigration questions, they're unlikely to be raised anytime soon. But think about it: Do we want the population of America to stabilize or grow? What percentage of new Americans do we expect to become net contributors economically? Should immigrants assimilate or at least integrate, or are we okay establishing ethnic enclaves?
Polarized as we now are, only a small and modest deal on a couple of immigration issues seems possible. Reading between the lines I think President Trump is willing to protect the estimated 800,000 individuals who — as children and through no fault of their own — were brought into the U.S. illegally. But in return he will need increased border security, including some kind of wall.
Politicians on both sides of the aisle should button their lips, hold their noses, shake one another's hands — and get that deal done. There are other issues — the much-too-imminent prospect of America's enemies in Pyongyang and Tehran acquiring deliverable nuclear weapons, for example — to which they might usefully turn their attention.