Tag Archives: Immigration

A Migrant Caravan and U.S. Crossroads

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.

Some Statistics

* 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.

Ellis Island

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.

caravan

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.

Crisis at the Border – Fake Tears and No Solutions

As legislators, aided by the media looking for easy “news,” keep the political pots boiling by jumping from one national hysteria to another, the country keeps unraveling. Each national despair enjoys its 15 minutes of fame and then disappears, either leaving no trace or generating a wake of greater problems.

Today’s national tragedy is children being separated from their parents at U.S. borders. Obviously, the practice is inhumane. But what do we get instead of a serious all-partisan effort to hammer out immigration reform and a permanent solution to children, accompanied and not, pouring over our borders? We get photo-op tears and hurling of invectives.

The challenge of people crossing borders without permission is much wider than children being separated from parents. The economic and political repercussions are endless, and the stakeholders benefitting are numerous.

Macro Considerations

We are talking about the good people crossing the U.S. border without permission from the U.S. government to flee from violence or lack of economic opportunity in their own countries.  We are not talking about the criminal elements in gangs or drug cartels.

These folks are not coming in flying first class.  They are trekking deserts and wading rivers, more often than not with little else but the clothes on their back. What would be the economic impact to the U.S. of opening the borders to welcome all? In the days when land was plentiful for settlement and jobs that required only a willingness to work were abundant, the economic impact would be beneficial. Today, the U.S. is struggling with its own native born who lack opportunity, skills, and jobs.

Micro Considerations

* Economies go through demographic transitions. At present, lower-income countries have high birth rates, while higher-income countries like the U.S. have an aging work force. Controlled immigration that focuses on workforce needs would be helpful. Undocumented immigration is not controlled.

* U.S. techies have been issuing this warning for several years: Except for very high-skilled work, robots will do everything, and governments will need to establish “universal income” to support the rest of us. The majority of undocumented immigrants are not highly skilled.

* Undocumented immigrants do work, and do pay taxes. Given their relatively low-wage status, they also receive refunds and child credits.

Stakeholders might not want solutions

* Immigrants, both legal and undocumented, identify with Democrats more than they do with Republicans. Might a constant turmoil surrounding immigration, with Democrats posing on the immigrants’ side help the party’s cause? Immigrants who have obtained U.S. citizenship vote, as do undocumented immigrants in a handful of local elections, such as school board.

* Undocumented immigrants, adults and children, apprehended at border crossings need to be housed. Some housing is provided by the U.S. government. However, most is provided by non-profit organizations and by private contractors. If we dismiss the idea that housing the undocumented is a lucrative business, we are being naïve.

BCFS, a global network of nonprofit groups, has received at least $179 million in federal contracts since 2015 under the government’s so-called unaccompanied alien children program, designed to handle migrant youths who arrive in the country without a parent or other family member.  The New York Times 06/21/18

But several large defense contractors and security firms are also building a presence in the system, including General Dynamics, the global aerospace and defense company, and MVM Inc., which until 2008 contracted with the government to supply guards in Iraq.  The New York Times, 06/21/18

So What to Do

The first step might be for legislators to get back to earning their pay taking care of the county’s commerce, infrastructure, security and tranquility.

The next step might be for the general public to acknowledge who the stakeholders are, and how the stakeholders aim to keep their powerful and lucrative positions by discouraging solutions to challenges.

Then, laboring under their new found focus and under the sharpened eyes of their constituents, legislators are likely to find give and take, compromises, and solutions.

It Takes Good People to Find Solutions

An iconic figure of our times is Cesar Chavez, who dedicated most of his life to improving the working conditions of migrant field workers.  Google “Quotes by Cesar Chavez” and a lot of good advice comes up.  Legislators could use a good dose of Cesar Chavez’ non-violent and persistent focus on working things out until solutions are achieved.

Cesar Chavez 2

 

Born March 31, 1927, in Yuma, Arizona, in a Mexican-American family.  Died April 23, 1993.

It is possible to become discouraged about the injustice we see everywhere. But God did not promise us that the world would be humane and just. He gives us the gift of life and allows us to choose the way we will use our limited time on earth.  Cesar Chavez