Two recent articles have highlighted the reality of modern so-called "refugees" - in reality, most of them are economic migrants - who are flooding into the First World any way they can. Having lived and/or worked in some of the worst affected areas from which the migrants are coming, I think I can provide an informed perspective on them.
First, New Republic focuses on the migrant flow through South America, and tells the story of several individuals. Here's a brief excerpt from a lengthy article.
Today, more than 65 million people around the world have been forced from their homes—a higher number than ever recorded, as people flee war, political upheaval, extreme poverty, natural disasters, and the impacts of climate change. Since 2014, nearly 2 million migrants have crossed into Europe by sea, typically landing in Italy or Greece. They hail from dozens of countries, but most are from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Nigeria—countries struggling with war, political repression, climate change, and endemic poverty.
Their passage to supposed safety, which takes them across Libya and the Sinai, as well as the Mediterranean, has become increasingly perilous. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, nearly 150,000 people crossed the Mediterranean in 2017.
. . .
In response to the migrant crisis, European countries have sent strong messages that newcomers are no longer welcome; they’ve built fences to stop refugees from crossing their borders and elected far-right politicians with staunchly anti-immigrant messages. Meanwhile, most asylum cases are stalled in overburdened court systems, with slim prospects for any near-term resolution, which leaves many migrants stuck in the wicked limbo of a squalid, under-resourced refugee camp or austere detention facility. Today, European authorities have stiffened their resistance not only to new arrivals, but to the hundreds of thousands of asylum-seekers who arrived years before and remain in an eerie liminal zone: forbidden to live or work freely in Europe and unwilling, or often unable, to go home.
Because of the high risks of crossing and the low odds of being permitted to stay, more and more would-be asylum-seekers are now forgoing Europe, choosing instead to chance the journey through the Americas ... It’s impossible to know how many migrants from outside the Americas begin the journey and do not make it to the United States, or how many make it to the country and slip through undetected. But the number of “irregular migrants”—they’re called extra-continentales in Tapachula—apprehended on the U.S. side of the border with Mexico has tripled since 2010.
. . .
All Europe has done is redirect the flow of vulnerable humanity, fostering the development of a global superhighway to move people over this great distance. The doors will not hold, and neither will the fences. You can build a wall, but it will not work. Desperate people find a way.
There's more at the link.
Commenting on the New Republic article, and analyzing the issue further, David Goldman points out:
The problems of sub-Saharan Africa (as well as Pakistan and other troubled countries) are physically too large for the West to remedy: The sheer numbers of people in distress soon will exceed the total population of the industrial world.
. . .
President Trump's reported comments about certain countries as sources of prospective immigrants may sound callous. He simply is ahead of the curve. The hour is already late to put a merit-based immigration system in place with effective enforcement against illegal immigration. Mexico solved its economic and social crisis of the late 1970s and early 1980s by exporting the poorest fifth of its population to the United States. With no prejudice to the Mexicans who chose to migrate, it is understandable why Americans feel put on. But that is tiny compared to what is headed towards us ten, twenty, or thirty years from now.
The mass of human misery headed towards the industrial countries simply is too great for us to bear. It is hard to see how humanitarian catastrophes of biblical proportions can be avoided. The responsibility of an American president is to make sure that they don't happen to us.
Again, more at the link. Bold, underlined text is my emphasis.
Two very different perspectives are portrayed in those articles. The New Republic author is largely sympathetic to the "refugees", portraying the hardships they've faced during their long and frequently dangerous journeys. He paints a picture of people willing to work hard and make a success of their new lives, if only they're given a chance. The second article is not so sanguine, pointing out the sheer scale of the problem and the mathematical impossibility of solving it.
I can see both sides of the picture. Having been in some of the countries mentioned, believe me, if I lived there today, I'd be doing anything and everything in my power to get the hell out! I wouldn't care about other countries' laws or economic priorities. Sheer desperation to have any sort of worthwhile life would drive me to join the migrant hordes heading for the First World. I'd be willing to do anything, even commit the most heinous crimes, to escape the hell in which I was living. On the other hand, I'm the product of a First World family, educated, working and living in that environment. I can see and understand that such a flood of economic migrants will inevitably rob me and mine of the resources and opportunities on which we rely, forcing us to lower our standard of living to accommodate the "invaders". (For example, the USA is already spending $18.5 billion every year on providing health care to illegal aliens. That's coming out of your and my pockets, one way or another - and it's completely unsustainable. It's got to stop.)
I understand the moral obligation to help others. I'm a pastor, after all. I've spent much of my life trying to help others, in many different ways, in many parts of the world. I'm not blind to the reality of the misery suffered by untold millions in their countries of origin. However, I'm also not blind to the need to balance that with our responsibilities to our own country and people. One can't go overboard in either direction.
I can only repeat what I've said before. It would be completely irresponsible, a dereliction of our duty to our own people and our own descendants, to allow ourselves to be overrun by a horde of indigents who will leech away our economic, social, cultural and national life blood in their desperation to find a better life for themselves. At the same time, it would be immoral - sinful, from a Christian perspective - to abandon refugees and/or economic migrants to the despair in which they find themselves. We can't have one side of the coin without the other.
We should by all means provide help to them; but let that help be assistance to make their own nations more livable, more humane, a better home for them and their fellow countrymen. Get rid of the corrupt, graft-ridden current international aid system. Insist on accountability for every dollar we send. If a government proves too greedy and grasping, retaining much of the aid for its own members rather than passing it through to its people, then let that government be cut off from all further funding. If necessary, take active steps to remove it.
That said, I have no problem at all in strengthening our border defenses (including walls, fences, technological barriers, etc.) and increasing law enforcement within our borders to find, arrest and deport any and all illegal aliens. Genuine refugees, who are in demonstrable, verifiable fear of their lives, should be accommodated; but there aren't that many of them compared to economic migrants. Furthermore, we should act against the corrupt "immigration industry" that (among other things) coaches illegal aliens in how to present their case (in other words, how to lie) in order to get permission to stay. As far as I'm concerned, those involved in such schemes are criminals, and should be prosecuted as such.
We also need to acknowledge that this isn't a short-term problem. It'll get worse as time goes on. What we face now is going to be a lot worse in ten, or twenty, or thirty years' time. We'd better settle down for the long haul, and be prepared to stand our ground.
What say you, readers?