Brux column: The economics of immigration and "the caravan"
I'm reading a book about a young Korean woman whose family immigrated to the U.S. I'll quote a few sentences from author Min Jin Lee.
"The astonishing and marvelous thing is that [America] accepted my family and me. My sisters
and I did not speak English. We didn't have much money. Nevertheless, ... kind-hearted neighbors took us in and gave me great reasons to love this nation and to believe that diversity is not only possible, it is an evergreen source of American power."
Are you moved by her words? I am, and I'm proud of the River Falls community that I believe is
generous, tolerant and accepting. Not so with our federal government, though. My country is not the nation it once was.
Donald Trump recently proclaimed that he is a nationalist, even though "they tell me not to use that word." The reason his advisors don't want him using it is because it stands for "white nationalist." The phrase "(white) nationalistic-populist" goes beyond simple opposition to all things global (anti-treaty, anti-trade and anti-immigration). It is not based on economic theory or empirical data. It is based on racism and bigotry, elevating the white race, European ancestry, and "American culture." Today this manifests most clearly in Trump's anti-immigrant rhetoric about the "caravan" of Central Americans walking together towards the border. Some examples:
• The use of one bad example to stereotype an entire people is the very definition of racism. Trump's latest ads implied that one murderer defines an entire population of Central American immigrants and were deemed so racist that TV news stations refused to run them.
• Trump refers to immigrants as "invaders," rapists and murderers, and he uses terms like "catch and release" and "chain migration" to demean them. His latest rhetoric refers to the Central American immigrants as "infestations" and "intruders."
• Trump's advisers encouraged him to increase the number of judicial facilities and immigration judges along the Mexican border to assist with asylum cases. Trump responded, "No, I don't want them here [the asylum seekers]" and refused his advisers' suggestions.
It is well-known that immigrants contribute to our economy and society. Crime rates fall as immigrants enter communities. Immigrants contribute to GDP, thereby enhancing economic growth and U.S. jobs.
Their demand for consumer goods and services results in more goods and services being produced (thus also creating more jobs). Their entrepreneurship vitalizes our business communities and their diversity enhances the quality of life in our neighborhoods. They pay taxes to support any services they receive. Young immigrants contribute to a frayed social security system to support our aging population.
Trump's opposition to asylum seekers, and his most recent statements that he will not accept the asylum claims of anyone who crosses the border illegally, and that he will no longer grant asylum for victims of gang violence, violate U.S. and international law. Fear of violence is the gold standard for asylum claims and it is unlawful to deny asylum claims regardless of how the asylum-seeker crosses the border. The expensive deployment of the U.S. military to the border is opposed by everyone, including our military.
The "caravan" now heading toward the U.S. border consists of exhausted people walking hundreds of miles, often mothers with children, and risking violent attacks along the way. (They walk together to avoid violent attack, not to form an "invasion" of the U.S.) Their home countries are rife with gang violence, and many of them have already lost family members. They know that they are next.
Let's put an honorable face on these immigrants and recognize the terrible conditions they live under. They are good hard-working people, like you and me, parents and children, but desperate for their lives.
Let's act honorably as well, welcoming them as a moral obligation and a neighborly response. Let's also recognize the benefits they provide to our communities and nation, economic and otherwise.
There will be a candlelight vigil in support of immigrants on Monday, November 26, 5-6 p.m., at the intersection of Cascade Avenue and South Main in River Falls. All are welcome. Please bring candles in mason jars. You can also voice your support for immigrants to our legislators at www.house.gov and www.senate.gov.