By Dylan R.N. Crabb
The need to “secure our borders” is usually a hot topic for political campaigns. Unfortunately, fear too often accompanies the rhetoric around the topic. Too many politicians see the issue of immigration as simply a way to inflate their own egos by talking shit about foreigners as well as appeal to the very real human instinct to fear the unknown. The fear is understandable, it can be scary to think about people from a different country and culture coming into your own country – your own state – with values and customs that you don’t understand especially if the strangers are described using the harshest of words. There is an element of risk in meeting new people and its scary on an individual level as well as a collective level.
The great American cliche involves a “land of opportunity” and for many people over the past two centuries it was true. The United States experienced a surge of immigration from Europe and Asia through the latter 19th century into the 20th century during which time American citizens heard similar zenophobic rhetoric as we hear today and immigrants experienced similar prejudice because of rhetoric crafted to fuel fear. As with most groups of humans, some immigrants do not follow the laws of their new countries and they get punished by the respective justice systems as they are found out, but most immigrants have a very strong incentive to act as law-abiding residents, most immigrants are risking a lot in their own lives (sometimes life itself) to find a new place to call home and experience the same dignity through hard and meaningful work for which every human strives.
The liberalization of international trade as well as the stagnation of wages over the past few decades have created a situation across the globe in which large populations of humans are competing with other large populations of humans across vast regions for jobs just to supply themselves with basic necessities – laissez faire capitalism on a global scale. It is unrealistic and unsustainable over the long-term because large groups of humans throughout developing countries and even some of the developed world are now at the mercy of the bottom lines of a few mega corporations (corporations with more economic clout and political capital than some small countries). I’m imagining a future comprising of the combined nightmares of Upton Sinclair, George Orwell, and Philip K. Dick.
In order to combat this dystopian vision of humanity’s future where corporate executives have enough individual wealth and power to make the feudal lords of old salivate and government officials are basically prostitutes for private interests, I believe we need to renew an old conversation: what is the purpose of a government, what is an individual’s responsibility toward public interests, and what does a “social contract” entail? Immigration trends are responses to global economic trends, simply closing our borders to immigrants and refugees is not going to solve the root issue of economic inflation and stagnant wages.