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Solving the Border Problem

Turkey is on the border of Syria, a country devastated by civil war. Greece is across the Mediterranean from Syria. Europe is the first landing place for refugees from drought-stricken Africa. European countries have at least attempted to formulate plans with regard to how to deal with the influx of refugees from the world’s trouble spots. Those plans have met with varied success and in many cases, their welcoming first approaches have led to social backlash against massive influxes of immigrants who are viewed by many as threatening European culture. As a result, approaches have changed. Borders are now sealed in some countries, refugees are sent back or, more often, sent to Turkey, where European money is helping to fund settlement camps that don’t have the aim of sending their occupants on to Europe. The situation is far from solved or stable, but it is at least being addressed. 

Our American approach is to do everything possible to keep immigrants from crossing our border illegally and to use our courts to adjudicate, one-by-one, the cases of people who apply for asylum. We have incarcerated some, separated children from parents and are now sending troops to fortify our borders to keep out a caravan of refugees from Honduras and Guatemala who are making their way north through Mexico.

The public focus of our approach has been dominated by the president’s rhetoric on the threat posed by this immigrant “invasion.” His voiced plan centers around stopping people from crossing the border, although our government has been also urging and providing incentives for Mexico to take in the refugees and threatening Honduras for letting them leave.

Much of Central America is a dangerous place to live. In Honduras and El Salvador, gangs, most often related to the drug trade, control the society, extort money and kill citizens at murder rates that are the highest in the world. Even for those not in danger, life is filled with poverty and government corruption. These are massive incentives for people to leave and seek refuge elsewhere. America is the richest nearby country and, in the past, has had a relatively porous border. It’s a natural destination, even if getting there is a long and dangerous journey.

Countries need to be able to control their borders. That doesn’t mean that troops or walls are an adequate method to deal with a refugee crisis that is continent-wide. When Europe was in economic trouble or when wars occurred on European soil, Americans usually formulated plans, quotas and procedures for taking in refugees. These people joined in the building of our society and became Americans themselves. It’s true that the policies were almost always tinged with racial, ethnic and nationality biases, so not every immigrant was equally welcomed. The policies reflected the tenor and beliefs of the times.

Polls have shown that our present policies don’t reflect the beliefs or the attitudes of most Americans, but no one has proposed a policy that does. Those who are most unified and the most vocal—the “keep them out” crowd—have carried the day. The voices of those others have been silent or unfocused. We are sorely in need of proposals for working with Mexico and Central American countries, as well as Canada on how to respond to the civil crises that are causing such dislocations of people. We can’t have an open border, but a well-to-do country with a booming economy and a declining birthrate that means we won’t maintain our workforce with our own children, means that the U.S. should take some of the people who are leaving danger and destitution in their own countries. Such an approach has to be measured and logical, not opening the floodgates to all who want to enter. Canada can also take people because it is similar to the U.S. in its economy and birthrate decline. Together with our neighbors to the South, we can try to work out solutions to the problems within Central American countries and, for the time being, find refugee havens closer to the people’s homes.

This isn’t a plan, because I’m not in a position to make one for our country. But our politicians are in such a position and have always been, throughout our country’s history. We can criticize the president for his plan being protective without compassion and not reflecting our country’s values, but criticism is not a solution. We need people from both parties to step up and look at the broader, long-term picture and at least make an attempt to solve it. Our immigration problems are miniscule compared to what Europe and Turkey and some Middle Eastern countries have faced, but we aren’t even trying to work together as a nation to come up with a way to handle them that we can all agree on. It’s time for leadership in this area.

Reader Comments (1)

The people in the caravan are not asylum seekers. They are not being persecuted for religious or political beliefs. They are economic migrants which simply means they live in bad place just like ninety percent of the world does. We can't accept every poor person around the world who arrives at our border just because their country has a bad economy or a corrupt government. President Trump is right in taking a hard-line stance with people who show up at our door demanding entry. We have no obligation to do anything except what is right for our current citizens and the millions of such people who struggle economically and medically. Merit-based immigration to benefit our country along with accepting the few true asylum seekers who need protection is fair to both US citizens and endangered foreign nationals. Ending the ridiculous notions of chain migration, the visa lottery, birthright citizenship for children of illegal aliens while solidifying the porous borders of our country will help every citizen. Denying government benefits to people who've criminally-entered the country or overstayed their visa will go a long way in securing the economic safety of the people who actually deserve and require our precious and limited resources.

November 3, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMark Wheeler

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