So what is merit? Is there some standard? What characteristics constitute a person of merit? Is there a merit scale like the IQ test? How is merit determined? By a college degree? By a person's work history? How often they attend church? By their net worth? Or is it a person's potential to help this country? How does the government determine who is worthy and who goes back to their “hellhole?” Is merit only applicable to adults, or do we have a way to measure merit or potential merit in children, like their IQ?

“I judge people based on their capability, honesty and merit.” – Donald J. Trump

“I would be willing to 'shut down' the government if the Democrats do not give us the votes for Border Security, which includes the Wall! …. and finally go to system of immigration based on MERIT!” – Tweet by Donald J. Trump

So what is merit? Is there some standard? What characteristics constitute a person of merit? Is there a merit scale like the IQ test? How is merit determined? By a college degree? By a person's work history? How often they attend church? By their net worth? Or is it a person's potential to help this country? How does the government determine who is worthy and who goes back to their “hellhole?” Is merit only applicable to adults, or do we have a way to measure merit or potential merit in children, like their IQ?

Is there a checklist for screening immigrants? How do we score potential? Does skin color matter? How about religion? What about facial hair? Clothing? Age? Potential political affiliation? Many Republicans including the President have claimed that Latinos tend to vote Democratic whether true or not. Is that sufficient to score all Latinos below the “no” line? And if so, how do you measure it, or do you just make assumptions based on ethnicity?

As one writer pointed out, how about a kid with an IQ of 167, National Merit Finalist, accepted to Harvard at age 16 with a full scholarship in advanced mathematics and a PhD at age 25? That's potential to be sure, but is it merit? That was Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber. Would he pass the criteria before we went off his rocker?

Who makes the rules for determining merit? How do you apply those rules to the people who show up at our borders?

Melanija Knavs entered the United States, the daughter of an Eastern European communist. She had no training, no special skills. She was simply a good looking model, young pretty and white, who married Donald J. Trump. Would she pass the merit test? Who decides what matters and how to score it?

What happens to a country, any country, that begins to evaluate its citizens and immigrants as worthy or unworthy of citizenship? What power should be given to a government to filter out the worthy from the unworthy? Is that not absolute power? It has been said and affirmed countless times that absolute power corrupts absolutely. Do we want a government that defines the value of human worth? Is that not what Nazi Germany attempted to do during WW2? Where do you fall along that scale? Do you belong here? Do I?

In order to apply for citizenship in the United States you must be on U.S. soil. So if you are denied entry, how can you apply for citizenship if you can't get here? You can't do it by e-mail. You can't do it by Twitter, or Facebook, or the old fashioned telephone. You have to get here and be here. So we lock the borders and some government checklist declares itself the determinant of human merit? Perhaps we should look beyond the artificial limits of our own biases, bigotry and prejudice and admit we just cannot know.

“Since I have difficulty defining merit and what merit alone means – and in any context, whether it's judicial or otherwise – I accept that different experiences in and of itself, bring merit to the system.” – Sonia Sotomayor, Justice, Supreme Court of the United States.

 

Mike Davis writes a column for the Neosho Daily News.