Making Sense of the Immigration Situation


Sarah Palin came out of her hibernation last month to urge America to impeach President Obama for deliberately allowing in illegal immigrants. Meanwhile, the Republican House has passed a bill speeding up the deportation of child migrants from Central America, currently kept in detention centers. Republican talking heads have been fabricating stories about 3,000 murders supposedly committed by illegal immigrants in the past 6 years.

The current discourse is, put simply, laughable. Instead of bashing openly racist right-wing propaganda (which would be too easy), I’ll try to point out important details about the current immigration situation, and in my next post, offer a plan for comprehensive immigration reform.

The Child Migrant Crisis is Partly a Result of American Policies

The number of child migrants coming to America has increased primarily due to terrible conditions in 3 Central American countries: Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. The instability of these countries has been, in part, fueled by the US government’s policies.

In Honduras, a 2009 US-sponsored coup put in place a military dictatorship; the country now has the highest murder rate in the world, in part due to state terror. In Guatemala and El Salvador, the US had long funded repressive right-wing death squad governments to achieve economic and Cold War goals. Even now, El Salvador‘s government has an awful record of protecting children’s rights, while Guatemala remains ravaged by crime and lawlessness.

The Immigration Detention Centers Are Horrendous

The detention centers have been described as “overcrowded and unsanitary” by some news outlets, and with good reason. The American Civil Liberties Union has also condemned the detention centers, where over 100 detainees have died since 2003. Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch has found that though most immigrants prosecuted have no criminal history, they’re often detained in solitary confinement. It’s disturbing that that’s the best treatment we can afford children running away from dangerous countries.

But What About the Rule of Law? Can America Handle So Many Immigrants?

Many conservative commentators have talked about preserving “the rule of law.” Their call for law enforcement, however, is extremely selective. Why not punish those employers who abuse undocumented workers and violate labor laws? Workplace abuse and wage theft are rife, but undocumented workers don’t report violations due to the threat of deportation.

Other anti-immigrant pundits have said that America can’t “just take everybody” in, maybe because immigrants are “moochers.” This seems funny, given that illegal immigrants pay local, state, and property taxes even though they’re not eligible to receive any welfare payments. In fact, they pay a higher state and local tax rate than the wealthiest one-percent do.  But don’t forget: The latter are “job creators” who pulled themselves up by the bootstraps, while the former are “job-stealers” who mooch off the American government.

Obama and the Democrats Are Not Pro-Immigrant

Yes, Obama did sign the DACA executive order that granted limited amnesty to young illegal immigrants. But, at the same time, he’s deported more illegal immigrants than any other President. Moreover, the bipartisan Senate immigration reform bill that got stalled by the House last year included over $40 billion in border security spending. On the ground, that means militarization of the US-Mexico border, complete with border fences and drones. It means the corpses of thousands of nameless immigrants.

Before we can have a sane discourse about immigration, we have to identify and avoid the thinly veiled racism that often lurks behind uninformed pundits’ comments. Let’s ditch the law-breaking, welfare-mooching, job-stealing xenophobic image of immigrants and the pro-immigrant image of mainstream Democrats. Until we do, skeletons keep piling up on the border.

Author: Edwin Jain

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  1. Also by passing DACA, Obama ensures that immigrant children educated in the American system are able to work and pay taxes without qualifying for many benefits. They can’t travel abroad freely, must get “advanced parole”, can’t participate in Obamacare, and ultimately do not have a path to greencard/citizenship. When renewing DACA application, you pay all the fees again and can only renew it until age 31. For someone in their late 20s, what then? Absolutely, Obama’s administration is not pro-immigrants. Great article!!

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