For some reason conservatives seem to think we can address undocumented immigration the same way you discipline your child staying out after curfew.
- You willfully broke a rule
- You must face your punishment
- If I let you off the hook your little brother will think he can get by with it too.
However the movement of humans from one place to another (migration) is seldom a simple activity, and is rarely even willful, or capricious. Sure the wealthy and the well educated see migration as an individual decision. Perhaps it is for a better school or a better job, even the wealthy Saudi Princess who arranges to give birth at the Mayo Clinic chooses to migrate, often temporarily, out of calculated self interest.
However, most undocumented individuals are part of a mass migration (involving thousands from the same area) event. It is always the result of situations; war, famine, persecution, etc… far beyond the control of the individual migrants, who in reality are refugees fleeing the unbearable conditions of one place for another.
Mass migration is result of deep and traumatic human issues. Not capricious or selfish, yet many conservatives want immigration policy similar to how a parent might discipline a rebellious teen. It won’t work, anymore than it would work for the father who grounds his daughter for wrecking the car when she was fleeing a potential rapist. The daughter needs understanding and help, not chastisement and shaming.
For every location, from where mass migration has sprung, there are specific issues. The following are from Latin America, my primary experience and source of perspective. Over the next weeks I will elaborate on each of these causes of mass migration, and the unintended consequences of un-examined policies.
While international policies are made by the wealthy, the repercussions of these decisions are often visited on the most vulnerable of every society.
Free Trade (specifically NAFTA): Without free movement of people, created seismic changes in the Mexican economy. Jobs were free to move but people were not, and a massive movement of people tried to follow work opportunities.
The War on drugs (in the USA): Rather than trying address our national appetite for drugs, we created a militarized approach to address a social, emotional, economic and human problem. The response to the drug armies of the USA was the creation of drug armies / cartels that launched a reign of terror on their enemies and their communities, in order to protect a profitable enterprise.
Closing borders: For most of the history of the USA and Mexico, workers migrated north to work, and would often return home for Christmas or other family events. The closed borders creates the need for human trafficking. People willing to pay $5-10,000 for a chance to get back to their job in the USA, but rather than being able to pay government officials this amount, and then get identified and have a background check, the only option is to pay a coyote, or human trafficker.
Building walls (The Trump Card of Folly) – Any immigration official knows that the
border with Mexico is porous with tunnels. A wall will only invite more tunnels and longer ladders, and will do nothing to end the human desires that push people to migrate. A wall is the solution of a nation based on fear (aka East Germany).
We can do better.
SOLUTIONS? While I am not a policy wonk, I do know 2 things:
- Our present immigration system is not just broken, it is wrong. It wastes taxpayer money and unduly harasses and penalizes people, who are innocent of any crime, and guilty of only wanting to work and provide a better life for their family (both here and often back in their own country.)
- We cannot have completely open borders. We must have checks for terrorists and criminals, we cannot accept EVERYONE without condition. BUT, I believe we must and should create systems in which are on the side of the migrant, while protecting the concerns of the state.
Hope you will stay tuned as we try to create discussion that is informed and compassionate, which are rarities in this era of trumped-up fear.
We must have more than oversimplified-angry-parent-solutions to real world problems.