Illegal immigration has long been a staple of the US political system and that will certainly be true in the 2016 Presidential contest. Meanwhile, the European Union also faces an illegal immigration crisis of its own that is only made worse thanks to escalating anti-immigration sentiments and violence. From the perspective of small countries like Lebanon and Jordan, which are hosting millions of displaced Syrians, their situation is no different from Europe and the United States, except for the Western world’s apparent distain when asked to care for their neighbors. That said, there is more to the story.
Sadly, a record number of 38 million people around the world have been internally displaced, which means illegal immigration is certain to rise as people flee from violence and desperate poverty. Recognizing Westerners face a global economy where increasing economic disparity, they are struggling with more and more poverty, it is understandable why Westerners fear increased competition for jobs. At the same time, the strain of accepting and assimilating massive waves of immigrants into their countries would be overwhelming to their governments and their debt-burdened national budgets.
If Middle Eastern countries were to simply deny to entry or deport their refugees back to the Assad regime, for example, there would be a massive outcry from Americans and Europeans over the inhuman nature of such policies. From the perspective of illegal immigrants, the double standard reaffirms the view of many that the wealthy West wants to deny those living in poverty real opportunity. Quite frankly, the vast majority of immigrants are just trying to protect themselves and build better lives for their families, which is what Americans and Europeans would do if in the same position.
Furthermore, the economic benefits of illegal immigration have clearly overwhelmed the threat of deportation, or even death, for those willing to illegally enter the US and Europe. The increasing violence throughout the world creates an even stronger incentive. Given that it is not in the nature of Americans and modern Europeans to bluntly embrace cruel and inhumane policies, the West can never apply enough punitive measures to counterbalance the incentives that exist for violating immigration laws.
Meanwhile, it has become ever more apparent that deportations and amnesty cannot solve the illegal immigration problem, especially when factoring in national security concerns. For those who favor the liberalization of the borders and economies of the world, the best solution is to abandon immigration control. There are, however, consequences that can be understood by looking at the damage done by free trade, i.e. the liberalization of the global economy.
In the 1980 and 1990's, the push for accelerated economic globalization forced workers in wealthy western countries to directly compete against those working in under-regulated, under-taxed, far poorer nations. NAFTA, for example, was sold to the American People as an opportunity to gain access to new markets and cheaper goods. What NAFTA did was further deleverage workers in the US, Canada, and Mexico. Mexico’s economy has benefited from NAFTA, but the lack of leverage undermines the ability of the Mexican People to seek a fair share of these benefits.
It is the fear of this writer that policymakers and researchers cannot foresee an economy capable of supporting a decent Middle Class lifestyle for the bulk of the human population. In other words, they are settling for an economy that will enrich a handful of individuals in each country, thus engineering a sustainable economy for the few that will be composed of the superrich and a global Middle Class. In turn, the majority of the world’s population will be neglected by the rich and powerful.
The wealthy of many Central American countries, for example, already barricade themselves in their lavish homes and hire private security to protect their families from the desperate and opportunistic. Clearly, there is an issue with essential civil services, such as the police, when those who can afford it hire their own private police force instead of paying higher taxes and improving public policies to guarantee public security and safety.
This type of self-imposed isolation by the wealthy only further divides the haves and have-nots, which, in turn, drives the failure of the power elites to properly address national interests over personal interests. Relying on open borders and unrestricted immigration to solve the underlying issues behind illegal immigration only makes it easier for self-interested elites to avoid solving their national problems and seek the displacement of populations that threaten their interests.
Despite all the political capital and time spent on immigration, little has been accomplished. The perpetual stalemate between those who want to open borders to unrestricted immigration and those who want to crackdown on illegal immigration is not going to solve the underlying reasons why there is so much illegal immigration. Consequently, world leaders need to focus on the issues driving mass immigration instead of the symptom.
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