Immigration and How We Talk About It


I don’t have the answer. Then again, you probably do not have the answer either. The discussion about immigration, especially about the Mexican border, is heating up. Unfortunately, as in the words of Benjamin Franklin, this particular discussion is “bringing more heat than light”. I would like to think that it really is a discussion, but it has become, like many topics these days, a twitter and sound bite war. The intent often is to inflame emotions, and to generate political talking points. The immigration topic deserves a more thorough and thoughtful discussion.

Many years ago, immigration from Mexico was essentially circular- that is workers came over the U.S. border to work seasonally, then returned home to Mexico. New laws in 1986 changed that landscape, making it very difficult to come to the U.S. and then return to Mexico.

The topic of immigration from Mexico has been a political tool for many years. However, the rise of Central American chaos and drug violence has escalated this problem to new and previously unimagined heights. Drug cartels and violent gangs in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, and civil unrest in Nicaragua have made those countries dangerous places to be. Children especially are targeted by the evil of gangs, and parents face terrible choices in trying to protect their children. So what do they do? Like any good parent, we do whatever we can to protect our children. It is the most human of behaviors.

As I began this piece, I have no answers to this problem, but I do suggest that we look beyond the border of the United States to solve it. At our borders, we are receiving people literally at the end of their rope. They typically have no better solution than to flee to a safer place.

Can we work with the Mexican government to make Mexico a safer place for refugees in their desperate flight for a haven? Can we find a way to help stem the tide of drug violence in Central America? We will never know if we do not start engaging the discussion in a reasonable way. If we intend to spend millions (or billions) of dollars to erect walls, holding facilities, border guards, and all the infrastructure needed to deal with illegal immigration, why not divert our efforts and monies into more positive plans, dealing with the root of the problem?

Difficult problems like this require collaborative solutions. Those solutions do not occur unless people sit together and engage one another in a genuine spirit of cooperation to solve a serious problem. I do know that the Trump administration’s stance toward Mexico is NOT facilitating such discussions, nor is it setting the groundwork for collaboration.

In order for any of this to actually happen, we must first engage one another in rational and moral discourse about it. Our political leaders, Democrats and Republicans, MUST stop engaging the immigration problem as a campaign issue, and deal with it as a moral, and perhaps even a financial issue. Yes, national security must be considered, but a human crisis must also be considered, and it should be discussed with more than hot rhetoric.

The desire to solve the problem must transcend the desire to be “right”. Certainly, it must transcend the desire to be elected.

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