The images are horrific: Crying children being separated from their parents. Kids cordoned off in chain-linked fences in an abandoned Walmart warehouse. Families not knowing how or when they will be reunited, if at all. The President says he hates to see this as well, but blames it on a law passed by Democrats, and says his hands are tied. This is a lie. There is no such law. There is, however, a zero tolerance policy implemented by his Attorney General that prosecutes anyone crossing the border, even asylum seekers, as criminals. The policy, created by this administration, could be reversed by the President with, as Senator Lindsey Graham says, with one phone call. So why doesn’t he do it? He’s holding children hostage with the ransom being funding for his wall. The majority of Americans hate what is happening. Still, the majority of Republicans support his policy. Trump thinks he can prevail by pleasing his base and pointing fingers at Democrats and the media.
Good God, can’t we find a better way? Obviously, yes, if we have the political will and our lawmakers can set aside their differences and pass comprehensive immigration reform. We need to pass laws and implement policies that are neither completely shutting off immigration nor promoting open borders. That is a false dichotomy we must get over.
The big picture throughout the world is refugees are driven out of their home countries by war, gang violence, and the inability of their countries to provide basic food, shelter and clothing for survival. They are desperate and will risk their very lives to pay smugglers, cross deserts, or hop on overcrowded boats to flee their situations for the hope of asylum and a better future for themselves and their families. Building a wall will not stop this pressure. Neither will a right-wing anti-immigrant backlash in Europe solve the problem. Like it or not, we are part of a larger world filled with desperate immigrants. And, unless we are Native Americans, our ancestors were desperate immigrants as well.
So what to do? Here are some common sense solutions:
Go to the source of the problem. Is there anything we can do to address the conditions in the countries in Central America that are causing their citizens to flee? One step is to address the drug problem in this country that is driving the demand for illegal drugs on which the gangs depend. Demand drives supply. Also, is there a way we can support economic development in these countries that would allow their citizens to make a living at home? Probably. Immigration from Mexico has gone down largely because the economic conditions in their country have improved. I know there remains the issue of ending corruption and establishing a rule of law in those countries, but there must be something we can do to help, along with assistance from allies and the United Nations.
Allow Dreamers a path to citizenship. These are people who were brought here as children, and know no other country than America. In reality they are Americans. Let’s make them legal. We need them.
Allow a path to citizenship for those who have been in America for years and have no criminal record. They want to be Americans. We can’t deport them all. We need them as well.
Develop a guest worker program. With record low unemployment, and with not enough native-born people to fill needed jobs, our only solution to the workforce shortage problem is to allow immigrants to enter legally and fill those jobs. I know we currently have programs like the H1B visa, but we need to broaden it to allow more to be here legally to aide our economy.
These are just a few ideas that address the problem, and ideas that everyone should embrace. Most immigrants are not criminals, drug dealers, or rapists, contrary to what our President asserts. There are ways to screen out the bad apples. We need the rest. America can’t close it’s doors, nor turn a blind eye to the forces in the world that create people coming to our shores, the land of the brave and home of the free.