As a “migrant caravan” of 5,000 – 7,000 souls approaches the U.S. border, rhetoric reaches fever pitch. Depending on political bent, they are invaders, illegals, immigrants, migrants, or asylum seekers. To the folks who are into conspiracy theories, they are provocateurs bankrolled by Soros, or surplus people who the corrupt administrators of their country of origin think better gone. So, why not add to the rhetoric with this article?
First, a Glossary of Terms
Invaders enter by force with the intention to do damage or to take possession. Illegals (short for illegal alien) enter usually peacefully but without permission. Immigrants, migrants, and asylum seekers all need permission to enter before they can be referred by those names.
Immigrants are people who intend to live and work in a country of their choice. Migrants enter a country to work, but not necessarily to stay permanently. Asylum seekers, according to U.S. and international law must fall into very specific categories: they must prove to authorities in the receiving country that they need protection because they have suffered persecution or fear that they will suffer persecution due to their race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.
It would seem difficult to state that all 5,000 – 7,000 members of the caravan could be describe by any one of the above terms.
* There were 11 million unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. in 2015 … Six states account for 59% of unauthorized immigrants: California, Texas, Florida, New York, New Jersey and Illinois.
* There were 303,916 apprehensions in the Southwest border of persons attempting to cross into the U.S. without permission during fiscal year 2017 (October 1 – September 30), and 408,870 in FY 2016.
* Border Patrol estimates “just under 100,000” aliens crossed into the U.S. between ports of entry each year since 2006.
Here is a random thought for rumination only: 303,916 plus 100,000 divided by 52 equals 7,768. That’s at least 7,768 persons that attempt to cross into the U.S. without permission each week. The current caravan is estimated at 5,000 – 7,000.
So Is There a Crisis?
Are President Trump’s concerns justified? Is Congress acting irresponsibly by ignoring the caravan? Here are some thoughts to ponder:
* The Migration Policy Institute estimates that 25% of unauthorized immigrants have achieved a high school diploma or GED [vs. 87% U.S. population as a whole], and 44% speak English not well or not at all. These numbers can often place unauthorized immigrants below the U.S. poverty line.
* The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is responsible for overseeing the nation’s legal immigration system, which includes adjudicating asylum claims. USCIS says that as of January 2018, the agency faces “a crisis-level backlog of 311,000 pending asylum cases.”
* On a typical day in 2017, agents of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection processed the following: 1,088,300 passengers and pedestrians, 340,444 incoming international air passengers and crew, 55,709 passengers and crew on arriving ship/boat, 691,549 incoming land travelers, 283,664 incoming privately owned vehicles, 78,137 truck, rail, and sea containers, $6.5 billion worth of imported products, 90,959 entries of merchandise at our air, land, and sea ports of entry, $120.5 million in duties, taxes and other fees.
* The volume of commercial and private legal traffic listed above generates considerable income for the U.S. Disruptions, apprehensions and interdiction do not.
A Nation of Immigrants
Advocates for a lenient and compassionate immigration system often express the sentiment that the U.S. is a “nation of immigrants.” Indeed it is. Settlers arrived in the 17th century before this was a nation. Slaves were forcefully brought to America against their will during the 17th through the 19th centuries. In the 19th and early 20th centuries great waves of immigrants mostly from European countries arrived at various ports of entry in the U.S., the most famous of which was New York.
For the immigrants who came through New York harbor in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the Statue of Liberty no doubt dazzled their senses, but Ellis Island determined their fate. Opened on Jan. 1, 1892, Ellis Island’s vast inspection center served as the entry point for more than 10 million men, women and children, mostly European Catholics and Jews. In the busiest years, between 1898 and 1915, its overburdened staff processed 5,000 people a day with cold, stunning efficiency. The New York Times, When Ellis Island Was the Only Port, August 2000
Those deemed medically suspect, politically subversive, or unlikely to find a job were weeded out. But at least they were given a chance. The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 gave Chinese laborers no chance at all by prohibiting their entry into the U.S.
Is the U.S. at a Crossroads?
Indeed this is a nation of immigrants. However, is there a comparison between, say, those that arrived at Ellis Island, and members of the migrant caravan apparently demanding – not seeking – asylum in the U.S.? If the answer is yes, then the U.S. has chosen the humane share-and-share-alike policy of open borders. If the answer is no, then the choice is that of national sovereignty and adherence to U.S. law.
It is irrelevant whether the caravan is one of Soros’ ploys to destabilize the U.S., or a result of bad choices that ruined the caravan’s countries of origin, or proof that inhabitants can be left without the ability to affect their countries’ destiny. What matters is that the world is watching to see what the U.S. – that is, its residents through their elected representatives – chooses to do.