Opinion: Look beyond border to solve immigration
Last updated 1/30/2019 at 1:06pm
We Americans like to think of ourselves as problem solvers of a sort. If something is wrong, or needs fixing, we feel we can get to the heart of the matter and figure out a solution that is best addressed to solve it.
There is a problem with immigration in this country — legal and illegal. Always has been, and if we don’t figure things out, always will be.
Spending $5.7 billion to build a great, big, beautiful wall — even a not-so-big and beautiful steel barrier — is not a solution. Never has been, never will be.
There are many ways to circumvent a wall, and those who would bring illegal drugs, traffic in humanity and even seek to harm us already know how to get around physical barriers. There are plenty of statistics to back this up.
According to the federal Drug Enforcement Agency’s 2016 National Drug Threat Assessment, most cross-border shipment of illegal drugs takes place at ports of entry. Improving detection methods and beefing up personnel at these portals would do far more than a concrete barrier.
The same applies for terrorists coming to this country to do us harm. Many who have been apprehended have been caught at ports of entry, especially airports, including coming in through Canada.
A wall would also not take care of our own special, homegrown brand of terrorist.
The wall would not address the issue of visa overstays — people remaining in the country after their visas have expired. According to U.S. authorities, there were nearly 740,000 overstays during a recent 12-month period.
A wall wouldn’t solve the issue of asylum seekers. According to an Associated Press story, “The number of asylum seekers jumped nearly 70 percent from budget year 2017 to 2018. Nearly 93,000 people cited a credible fear of being targeted because of their race, religion, nationality, political opinions or social group, the first step in winning asylum.”
By comparison, nearly 56,000 migrants asked for asylum from 2016-2017.
According to Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, the immigration court backlog has doubled to 1.1 million cases since Donald Trump became president. But while Trump increased the number of immigration judges, that came without enough support staff.
Walls won’t change any of this. The only truly effective way to deal with immigration is to look beyond our borders, not at our borders.
If Trump and others were truly serious about immigration reform, they’d take seriously what is happening beyond our borders. For instance, Guatemala.
There, President Jimmy Morales has unilaterally dissolved a United Nations-created commission responsible for ferreting out organized crime and corruption in that country’s government. Government authorities detained a member of the U.N.-sponsored anti-corruption commission at the country’s airport, and eventually deported him even after the three-judge Constitutional Court ordered Morales and his associates not to interfere in the commission’s mission.
The commission was successful in bringing corruption charges against Guatemala’s former president and several members of his Cabinet, and Morales himself is under investigation for illegal campaign financing. His allies in Guatemala’s Congress have hinted at giving him the authority to remove the Constitutional Court judges.
Such a move could so debilitate the rule of law and tear down faith in public institutions in that Central American country that it could descend into a mafia-run organization more corrupt and threatening than the military-backed governments responsible for 36-years of genocide against their own citizens in the latter part of the 20th century.
That would lead to more people coming north to seek safety in the U.S. Past American administrations have supported the U.N.-sponsored commission, but not so the Trump Administration and its anti-U.N. members in Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and national security advisor John Bolton.
Indeed, Morales has taken steps to flatter Trump by announcing they, too, would move their embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Enforcing the rule of law, encouraging local-style democracy and seeking to create economic opportunities abroad would help to reduce the need for people to come to the U.S. for asylum, work or even to attack us. There would be no need for walls.
The problem is, we don’t think about foreign affairs that way.
We think of ourselves first.
John McCallum is the managing editor of the Cheney Free Press. As a member of the Presbyterian Church of the Inland Northwest he has made six mission trips to Guatemala between 2008 and 2018.