Facing the Causes of the Problems with Immigration
The ultimate causes of the emigration which is producing the immigration crisis are the gross inequalities among and within nation in resources and power. The only real solution to the crisis is to move to equalization and sharing among nations, through agreements and institutions at the international level. It is the opposite of the direction in which Trump is moving U.S. policy.
The issue of separating children from their parents within the process of dealing with immigration should be beyond the pale of reasonable disagreement, and the basic answer should be non-controversial: very simple, DON’T DO IT! Indeed, the details need working out, but that is no excuse for not dealing with the causes of the immigration problem as such. Looking at causes seems almost taboo today. Either it is too complicated, and we have no time to think about causes, or, if we do, the remedies seem so farfetched as to be utopian and not worth even thinking about.
But the cause of the immigration problem is in fact very simple. The need to emigrate from one country to another arises out of the gross inequality among countries of the world: inequalities in income and wealth, inequalities in power, unequal levels of security and dignity afforded their residents. And at least the first step dealing with these fundamental causes of emigration might seem to be equally clear: they can ultimately, but the sooner the better, be dealt with at the international level, what we newly call the global level. After the end of the First World War, there was a brief flurry of interest for collective international action at that level. The nations of the world went so far as to adopt a Universal Declaration of Human Rights, whose language is on a par in its nobility with the language of the United States Declaration of Independence, and deserves to be as familiar:
“Recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable right of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice, and peace in the world. “
It is the foundation on which any quest for the solution to the problem s of immigration should rest.
That sounds fine, but totally theoretical. One might start with the briefly discussed but ill-fated efforts to agree on national quotas, which at least reflected an incipient belief in an international approach to the problem. Agreement might be sought, perhaps, for international standards at some absolutely minimal level, e.g., no separation of children from parents, some guarantee of due process. Some international standards actually already exist, for instance in the definitions agreed upon in the 1951 Geneva Convention on Refugees for concepts such as fear of persecution and justifications for seeking asylum. Or agreements against the use of poison gas and chemical weapons in warfare, etc. Why not international standards for the treatment of those seeking to emigrate out of similarly defined urgent need?
There are also already a variety of national and inter-national limited agreements for immediate remedial measures. Germany finances aid to Turkey to promote its measures reducing flight from that country. Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel briefly signed an agreement, unfortunately sort-lived, helped by the High Commissioner for Refugees, to support financially measures in Eritrea and Sudan to staunch the flow of refugees from those countries to Israel, and to cooperate with other western countries to accept refugees emigrating from them.1. Other ideas have surely been advanced along similar lines, and deserve study attention,
And could one not at least envision further principled moves to support universal free education through grades 12 with an international fund and matching local contributions for financing? Wasn’t there once a broad Marshall Plan in which victorious countries aided devastated ones after the Second World War? Wouldn’t such be aspirations at least to put on the table in international conferences, and even in our own election campaigns? Wouldn’t positive relations with our allies and neighbors, not a route the Trump administration seems interested in taking, be enhanced by such discussions?
As further steps, could one not at least envision universal free education through grades 12 with an international fund and matching local contributions as financing? Wouldn’t that be an aspiration at least to put on the table in international conferences, and even in our own election campaigns? Wouldn’t positive relations with our allies and neighbors, not a route the Trump administration seems interested in taking, be enhanced by such discussions?
Might even Donald Trump find some value in such a direction, as relieving him, all alone, from having to face problems that he clearly is not on the way to solving by himself ? Cynically, perhaps, but usefully, kicking the can of immigration reform upstairs?
1.See Michael Stard,The Wall and the Gate: Israel, Palestine, and the Legal Batle for Human Rights, review by David Shulman, New York Review of Books, June 28, 2018.