Few recent topics of national concern have been more consistently and more intentionally misinterpreted than that of the Caravan. For both sides, it represents an extremely emotional and passionate issue; to the left, the caravan-bound migrants of central America are refugees fleeing oppression and poverty; to the right, they are violent opportunists looking to exploit American generosity. And, as usual when dealing with groups of thousands and thou- sands of people, neither side is actually wrong. But moderation and rationality are boring—readers enjoy things that outrage them. Thus, with the wave of the magic wand of biased verbiage and subtle choices in presentation, the caravan splits in two; one caravan comprised entirely of hard- working women and brilliant, bright-eyed children and one comprised entirely of men burning American flags at the border and throwing rocks at police. The premise that both such people could exist in a caravan together—and do—is an incomprehensible proposition in the modern American political economy.
While this is all true, I wouldn’t have written this piece if my only intention was to preach in a smarmy tome about the indisputable and divine benefits of moderate outlooks because, in truth, this is a situation in which a “moderate” outlook helps no one and offers no solutions. The truth, ultimately, is that something needs to be done, and what that “something” is depends on the answer to a simple question: Is it America’s responsibility to fix the mistakes of the world, even when doing so hurts us as a nation?
Perhaps there are questions about American national identity and meaning to be asked as well, but those pale in importance to the question of responsibility. The premise of caravan-style immigration is fundamentally a question of responsibility; what those who invoke the waves of foundational immigration that built East Coast cities like New York forget is that the immigrants that came through Ellis Island were subjected to one of, if not the most rigorous and narrowly-focused immigration protocols ever created, and that vying for slots resulted in only the smartest, most cunning and, above all, luckiest actually reaching American soil. The premise of caravan migration is a polar opposite. There’s an argument to be made about the strains of actually reaching the border but, once it’s reached, the philosophy of caravaneering would have the only requirement as a desire to pass over that invisible line.
The social and political ramifications of caravaneering and, more broadly, illegal immigration, have already proven to be sweeping and increasingly serious, from the rise of new, sprawling ghettos across the cities of the American southwest to labor industries capitalizing on illegal immigration to pay penny salaries for backbreaking work in construction and agriculture. Although these schema increase the GDP, they do so by putting money in the pockets of middle managers and executives off the blood and sweat of immigrants, and strain the rest of the country by billions in untaxed revenue and public service usage. While the actual number of the budgetary strain levied on American taxpayers by illegal immigration is a matter of hot debate, it’s in the tens of billions at the lowest, and the hundreds of billions as the highest. In perspective, that’s a cost of roughly $400 paid for every individual American citizen per year, purely to support the current strains of illegal immigration. Each caravan that passes through increases the existing issues exponentially.
Some of these issues, namely labor exploitation, could be fixed through programs of legalization. But others, like the creation of ghetto sprawls and civil strife in the southwest, are here to stay for the foreseeable future. There can be no question that it isn’t fair that some are born into poverty and some into privilege by virtue of their birth, but millions are born into poverty and privilege right here in the United States. Logistically, it’s nothing short of absurd to think that a nation that has the worst ghettos in the developed world and has struggled with systemic poverty for decades, if not centuries, can handle an ever-increasingly influx of poverty-stricken migrants. The American immigration system is not strict because of irrational hatred or fear of outsiders; it is strict because we have significant difficulties handling our own population’s very significant and very real issues.
Before we speak about rule of law or respect for civil boundaries or even on core national identity, it must be absolutely and firmly understood that if we, as a nation, accept the premise of unchecked migration based on pure desire for immigration, there may soon not be an America worth mass immigration.
Contact Max Goldenberg at [email protected]