What debt do we owe to other nations? Not in specific objective numbers that bounce around balance sheets, transferring wealth from elite to elite, but those amorphous calculations that never quite coalesce. Informal and black markets. Legacies of interference. Vagaries of chance.
The United States is planning to revoke the permission of 260,000 El Salvadorans to live in this country. This comes after revocation of Haitian immigrants, and before an attack on Hondurans. The President has expressed his discontent at immigration in general. Is America American-enough yet?
There are certain merits of immigration policy that encourages those coming to America to reconsider and build their own nations. However, this is a fallacy when confronted by history, globalization, and human rights. Certainly, if all nations were cleansed of history, then the argument holds. But in a world of multinational vampires sucking the wealth of any given nation and hoarding it off-shore, how can a Salvadorena justify committing herself to building her nation, when it is already under a capitalist-backed assault? And since we live in a capitalist society, how can we justify denying anyone the basic rights to pursue life, liberty, and happiness, unless we make certain moral compromises?
Certainly, the Temporary Protected Status measures need re-examination, but not through elimination; rather, a path to citizenship reaffirms our belief that America can and should be a place of dreams, not the nightmares of ICE, holding cells, and militias scouring the desert. Yet, instead, we focus on denial and disregard for the better angels of our nature.
But without even the necessary moral arguments, immigration should be examined with more nuance than the typical Trumpian idealogue. Undocumented migrants are the current punching bag of the right, but this tends to slide into an argument against all immigrants, not simply the one-third of whom arrive in the US without papers. Then, as with so many issues, one-off anecdotes are used to demonstrate the evils of immigration. Security, crime, fear of economic and social unrest are levied at immigrants’ weary feet. “Even one crime committed by an illegal is too many,” seems to be the talking point. Somewhere in the babble, facts are left behind.
- Immigrants represent around 15% of the general US workforce, yet are responsible for both a quarter of the entrepreneurs and inventors in the United States.
- Immigrants are more educated than ever before: From 2011-2015, college graduates made up 48% of all immigrants to the United States.
- Immigrants contribute diversity and innovation across all economic sectors, leading to more competitive businesses for the United States.
- The fiscal burden on US taxpayers or each first-generation immigrant is around $1,600; however, second- and third-generations contribute a net-positive of $1,700 and $1,300 respectively.
- Slowing fertility rates in the United States necessitate immigration to support a greying population.
The list goes on. It seems that we really are living in South Park’s “They took our jobs!” world in which the population had little understanding of the huge changes brought about by the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and so look for scapegoats. Shifting economic trends are responsible for more job destruction than immigration. Automation is making many positions obsolete: Transportation, the number one employment sector for American males, will be completely upended by self-driving cars. Americans’ new reticence towards internal migration has led to depressed towns and states missing potential opportunities. The gig economy has boosted service jobs while eroding safety nets. Yet immigrants are blamed.
So we come back around to our debts. The United States worked to support structures across Central America that entrenched inequality, often times at the barrel of a gun. Our prisons created the MS-13, and injected it back into El Salvador. The illegal drug market of the US is valued at over $100 billion, fueling syndicates and mafias that corrupt the rule of law of our neighbors. Our war machine delivers fighter jets and bombs into the hands of temporary allies to fight our proxy wars while we keep our hands clean.
Yet…Our universities and colleges are consistently among the top in the world. Our cities are hotbeds of innovation and invention. Despite recent attacks and corporate investment, our media still fights to protect our freedoms. Our belief in reinvention should hopefully sustain us through the next three years, and our national dysfunction has been superseded by local and regional leaders. Overall, I still believe America is a place of hope, and that hope should be the right of every immigrant. We owe them that much.