👩🏻‍🎓HISTORY WE SHOULD HEED: Professor Julia G. Young On Why Politicos & Their Wrong-Headed Unilateral Cruel Enforcement Programs Have Failed At The Border — “Since the 1970s, Republicans and Democrats alike have tried to address undocumented immigration by constructing ever more draconian policies of border control, deportation and detention—border theater that grabs headlines and sometimes leads to short-term change, but never actually solves the problem.” — Vice President Kamala Harris Isn’t The First Political Figure To “Take On The Border” — Could She Be The First To Get It Right?

Professor JUlia G. Young
Julia G. Young
Associate Professor of History
Catholic University
PHOTO: Wikipedia Commons

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Professor Julia Young in Time Magazine:

With the U.S. “on pace to encounter more individuals on the southwest border than we have in the last 20 years,” as Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement March 16, immigration at the U.S.-Mexico border has emerged as one of the toughest challenges facing the Biden Administration. Last week, President Biden put Vice President Kamala Harris in charge of “stemming” the flow of migrants, Biden was questioned about the immigration situation at his first official press conference, immigrant detention centers began to fill up once again, and lawmakers from both sides of the aisle made trips to the border to publicize the issue and propose solutions.

Biden’s attempts to address immigration may be new, but the issue is one that has dogged his predecessors for decades. Since the 1970s, Republicans and Democrats alike have tried to address undocumented immigration by constructing ever more draconian policies of border control, deportation and detention—border theater that grabs headlines and sometimes leads to short-term change, but never actually solves the problem.

There’s a reason why the U.S. government has failed for so many years to “control” the border: none of these policies have addressed the real reasons for migration itself. In migration studies, these are known as “push” and “pull” factors, the causes that drive migrants from one country to another.

Today, the countries sending the most migrants to the U.S.-Mexico border–especially the Central American countries of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador–are experiencing a combination of push factors that include poverty and inequality, political instability, and violence. And while the current situation may be unique, it is also deeply rooted in history.

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Many countries in Central America have struggled with poverty since the time of independence from Spain in the early 19th century. While they are beautiful countries that are rich in culture and history, that colonial past has meant they have historically been home to large, landless, poor, rural populations, including many indigenous people of Mayan descent. In the years after Spanish control, they were typically ruled by small oligarchies that disproportionately held wealth, land and power, and their economies were primary export-dependent, which brought great riches to landowners but also exacerbated and perpetuated inequality and the poverty of the majority. Those dynamics have carried forward to today. More recently, climate change–in particular, drought and massive storms–has forced the vulnerable rural poor out of the countryside.

. . . .

And while many Central Americans could indeed qualify for asylum based on their experiences of persecution, the previous administration made every effort to limit their ability to obtain it. Now the Biden Administration must decide whether to restore the asylum framework, which has become the only possible path to legal migration (as well as safety and security) for Central Americans and other migrants who—due to these combined push and pull factors—are desperate to come to the United States.

Given the complicated and deep-rooted reasons behind migration, lawmakers cannot control or “solve” the ongoing crisis at the border by simply pouring money and resources into ever more militaristic border theater. It’s no wonder that decades of such policies have done little to change the underlying dynamics.

Instead, if Americans are serious about changing the situation at the border, we need to address the push and pull factors behind Central American migration. We need to acknowledge the reality of the U.S. economy (in particular, that it demands immigrant labor to work low-wage jobs) and work to construct new legal frameworks that reflect that reality. We need to target financial and logistical support to encourage Central American countries to address the poverty and inequality that fuel migration, rather than cutting foreign aid, as the Trump Administration did. We need to do all we can to end the pervasive gang violence that pushes so many migrants out of their homelands. And of course, we must continue to evaluate our own historical and contemporary role in creating the longstanding problems that are pushing Central Americans to migrate.

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Read the rest of Julia’s article at the link. One key truth: many more Central American migrants would qualify for asylum and be legally admitted to our society under a fair application of our asylum laws directed and supervised by real expert judges who scrupulously enforce due process and best practices on a now biased, unfair, and dysfunctional system!

“Stemming the tide” might be neither realistic nor possible at this time. But, controlling it, managing it humanely and legally, and regularizing it, while lessening the “push” factors should be achievable.

It would, however, require bold actions:

  • Recognizing the primacy of humanitarian protection laws and insisting on due process in implementing them;
  • Putting experts in humanitarian situations, due process advocates, diplomats, labor economists, and demographers in leadership positions; and
  • Embracing much larger levels of legal immigration, particularly from Latin America.
Vice President Kamala Harris
Vice President Kamala D. Harris
Vice President of the United States
(Official Senate Photo)

Unfortunately for Vice President Harris and the rest of us who want humane, realistic immigration policies, there are reasons for our half-century of overall failure on the border.

Bloated government bureaucracies, powerful corporate interests, nativist politicians, and even foreign leaders are heavily invested in expensive and guaranteed to fail “uber enforcement” gimmicks. Failure basically creates a never-ending demand for more: more enforcement agents, “civil prisons,” jailers, deporters, cars, trucks, guns, boats, ammo, walls, fences, technology, courts, judges, prosecutors, lobbyists, “baby jails,” processing centers, foreign aid that goes largely into the pockets of corrupt leaders and their cronies, and a never-ending supply of underground, low-wage, politically neutered workers.

Additionally, we now have an entire political party with an agenda of overt institutionalized racism, dehumanization of the other, and fear-mongering White Nationalist myths driving its bogus populist narrative.

None of these “architects and enablers of border failure and institutionalized racism” are going “quietly into the night.” They will fight tooth and nail to defend their sinecures, profitable empires, and politically useful White Nationalist myths.

The politician who finally breaks the deadly cycle of failure and human misery at our border, while harnessing and realizing the positive power of human migration, will become a hero for future historians and undoubtedly merit a chapter in a new edition of Profiles in Courage.

Sadly, such recognition and adulation is likely to come long after she is gone from the scene. Long term vision and moral courage are not necessarily rewarded with short-term political popularity. Just ask the few Republicans who voted in accordance with the overwhelming, basically uncontested, evidence of Trump’s “high crimes and misdemeanors!” 

That’s why it’s a tough challenge even for someone of Vice President Harris’s undoubted intelligence and abilities. It’s up to those of us who believe in a better America to keep her from getting sidetracked and co-opted by the vested interests of failure and White Nationalist myth-makers and purveyors.

🇺🇸⚖🗽Due Process Forever!

PWS

03-04-21

👩🏻‍🎓HISTORY WE SHOULD HEED: Professor Julia G. Young On Why Politicos & Their Wrong-Headed Unilateral Cruel Enforcement Programs Have Failed At The Border — “Since the 1970s, Republicans and Democrats alike have tried to address undocumented immigration by constructing ever more draconian policies of border control, deportation and detention—border theater that grabs headlines and sometimes leads to short-term change, but never actually solves the problem.” — Vice President Kamala Harris Isn’t The First Political Figure To “Take On The Border” — Could She Be The First To Get It Right?