US grapples with the lure of its borders
We need to see migrant wave in light of the damage we’ve done in region
Charles Stein makes a number of important points in “Democrats need an immigration policy that blends compassion with pragmatism” (Opinion, July 12), but, like so many commentators on immigration, he neglects the pertinent historical context. For more than a century, beginning with invasions of Honduras in the early 20th century, followed by the CIA overthrow of a democratically elected government in Guatemala in 1954 and support for right-wing death squads in the 1980s, the United States has intervened routinely in Central America to protect exploitative US business interests and to depose “socialist” leaders.
We have armed and supported ruthless military dictatorships throughout the region for decades, causing hundreds of thousands of deaths, destabilizing those nations, and creating the debilitating economic conditions that have driven hundreds of thousands, in desperation, to our border.
Stein is right to suggest that, rather than build a wall, we should provide substantial economic aid to Mexico and the Northern Triangle countries, but we should not regard this act as one of generous altruism; this would be a reparation, and an opportunity for our nation to begin to take responsibility for the harm that we have caused over the past century.
Holes found in op-ed’s argument
Re “Democrats need an immigration policy that blends compassion with pragmatism” (Opinion, July 12): Charles Stein writes that Americans have “a finite appetite for letting people come here.” That may or may not be true today, but it has certainly not always been so, since popular views on how much immigration is enough have changed widely in our history and can change again. After all, America had open borders for its first 100 years.
Stein says that we can’t possibly let all 144,000 people at the border into the United States, because they are more than the population of Hartford. What an odd point of reference. The number 144,000 is 0.04 percent of our nation’s population. If these individuals, and the thousands of refugees waiting to be reunited with their families who are already in the United States, were resettled wisely across cities desperate for workers and across rural areas desperate for new residents, but for their accents and skin color, they would scarcely be noticed, and more likely they would be welcomed with open arms.
Finally, Stein cites Angela Merkel’s political challenges as proof that we need to turn away immigrants and refugees. I prefer politicians who lead rather than pander.
Open borders pose a climate change nightmare for US
Proponents of de facto open borders (“operationally open borders,” as David Brooks has called it) will attack Charles Stein’s op-ed about immigration policy, but in doing so, they are climate science naifs or unwitting climate science deniers.
Consider the climate footprint of individual Americans: vastly greater that in the migrant source countries. And while about 70 percent of Americans now believe that climate change is real and human-caused, they are not going to reduce their climate footprint (one poll said most would spend only $1 a month, on average, to do anything about it). That is especially true for low-income people (as newly arrived migrants will be), who cannot afford electric or hybrid vehicles, solar panels, heat pumps, or expensive insulation retrofitting of older housing.
When not just millions, as Stein mentions, but tens or hundreds of millions want to move north for a so-called better life — that is, the carbon-use-intensive American life — the open-borders approach will just accelerate climate change to the immiseration of all who live in the United States.
John H. Henn