Although illegal immigration has long been a hot topic for the political world, the sudden spike in children illegally entering the United States has generated a firestorm thanks largely in part to the highly volatile dynamics of our political system and the opportunity the situation represents to demonize partisan rivals. While the crisis is just as much a foreign policy issue as it is a domestic issue, which the current influx is simply part of a long-term problem, the American political system is focusing on solutions that tackle the problem as though it is just a domestic issue. In doing so, the US is hurting its credibility as a global leader and failing to act as a global power.
Certainly, the harm of economic destitution, gang violence, and the brutality of drug cartels is not as flamboyant as militant attacks and government bombardments, but it is just as great. In all the efforts to classify illegal immigration from a blatant disregard for US sovereignty and law to a humanitarian crisis to an alien invasion to a human rights issue, we are dancing around declaring the decades-old problem a refugee crisis. From the perspective of small countries like Lebanon and Jordan, which are hosting millions of displaced Syrians, the situation is no different for the United States, except for America’s distain when asked to care for its neighbors, its neighbors’ children in this case.
What is lacking in America’s approach to dealing with illegal immigration is our failure to be a leader when it comes to the socioeconomic forces, i.e. poverty and violence, driving mass exoduses around the world. If Middle Eastern countries were to simply deport their refugees back to the Assad regime, there would be a massive outcry by countries like the United States over the inhuman nature of such policies while doing so would certainly not solve the problem. Clearly, the issues facing the people of Central America are not as intense or catastrophic as what has happened in Syria, but there are similarities that make them analogous. As such, the US needs to do more to address the long-term illegal immigration issue by reengaging our own hemisphere and showing the world how to properly deal with refugee crises.
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