Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Forced migration: our shame amid the world's pain

This isn't about the million plus people fleeing hunger and violence currently trying to make their way to Europe, at least it is not solely about those unfortunate people.

As this map shows, when people are displaced by war, they usually, and first, move to places nearby. The Syrian war has pushed huge numbers of people into neighboring countries. Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey have all been remarkably welcoming. A lot has been asked of countries without huge resources and plenty of their own problems.

And this migrant flood, melding with other refugees from Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia and other African parts, now pushes into Europe, providing a canvas on which the proto-fascist regime in Hungary reverts to barbed wire and a German chancellor strives to demonstrate that her country has learned it racial lesson. (Maybe it has; time and politics will tell.)

Meanwhile, the U.S., which bears deep and continuing responsibility for the deadly chaos in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Syria and elsewhere, is doing diddly-squat to to help these people. As of October 21, 1,854 people from Syria have been admitted here in the last four years. It takes two years for a refugee to navigate the bureaucratic hoops of a process more sensitive to excessive fears than too human need. And these are usually the relatively affluent and educated among the migrants.

George Packer, in a forthcoming New Yorker comment, shares some of the history of United States behavior when our wars have unsettled populations.

[After our Indo-China war,] In the end, the U.S. admitted more than a million Southeast Asian refugees. ... It’s easy to forget that every act of American generosity toward refugees has had to overcome stiff resistance based in ignorance. Historically, Presidential action has made the difference. After the Second World War, Congress passed legislation that made resettlement in the U.S. harder for Jewish victims of Nazism than for Germans uprooted by the war Hitler started.

... The Obama Administration is allowing the Atlantic Ocean to shield us from the human consequences, as if geography and moral responsibility were the same thing. Long ago, the President decided that American military intervention couldn’t resolve the Syrian war. That’s not a reason to exercise humanitarian restraint as well.

Packer's right of course. The U.S. can take a lot more of this current flow of displaced people with barely a blip of inconvenience. We're that big, that rich and that accustomed to incorporating diverse peoples.

But amidst our failure to take responsibility for that human migration across the oceans, we need to keep in mind that we are also still the destination for another flow of desperate people from much closer to home. And these people too are on the move from violence we've unleashed. These are the young escapees from Central American gangs who were so much in the news a year ago. Those gangs exist to service our country's drug addiction; they take root under the kleptocratic regimes we prefer for their countries.

Joseph Sorrentino charges at In These Times that there's a reason why we've been hearing less about this migrant flow lately.

... the Migration Policy Institute reported in September that Mexico is on target to deport 70 percent more Central Americans this year than last, while U.S. deportations are expected to be halved. Not only is Mexico doing our dirty work by deporting Central Americans, we’re paying for it: According to an October 10 New York Times article, we gave Mexico tens of millions of dollars in fiscal year 2015 to prevent these refugees from reaching our border.

It’s stunning that U.S. [Customs and Border Protection] is ignoring the fact that, by its own admission, the Central Americans it wants to deport are fleeing violence that has not ceased—which would make them legitimate refugees. CBP recently announced that “conditions related to the economy and violence in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala have not improved.” Yet in the same announcement, the agency calls people “illegally crossing the border” from these countries “a top priority for removal.”

I know, as much as I know anything, that people who are so desperate that they’ll literally risk their lives to reach the United States won’t be stopped by Mexican immigration agents dragging them off trains and using Tasers on them; by Mexican police forcibly removing them from buses; or by the threat of local gangs robbing, kidnapping, maiming or killing them. And they certainly won’t be stopped at the U.S. border by more walls, fences and agents. As long as conditions in Central America don’t improve, refugees will keep fleeing north. And by law, we should be taking them in. Why are we ignoring the crisis that is happening right on our doorstep?

My emphasis. Good question.

Graphic via Albuquerque Journal.

UPDATE: As of November 5, the New York Times reports:

But not a single child has entered the United States through the Central American Minors program since its establishment in December [2014], in large part because of a slow-moving American bureaucracy that has infuriated advocates for the young children and their families.


Rain Trueax said...

From the beginning, the migration of humans has been the story of our species. The problem now is when they come to countries where the arrivals don't understand the new culture, and perhaps even disdain it, where they cannot compete for jobs and resources without charity, how does that work?

From what I have read, I think Europe's concern is also the nature of religion. Europe has become more secular but the ones coming in are very religious with a religion that doesn't tolerate differences well in the countries from which it has come. Without a plan for how the new arrivals can live, earn money, how their religious values will impact the current population, this is leading to a potential of anarchy. I saw this morning a headline that Germany is heading to civil war over it. Chaos suits some groups quite well, but it's not what most civilized nations want.

Personally I don't agree with the opinion that the US could allow unlimited numbers of immigrating Muslims without an impact culturally. Now the question would be what would that impact be? Adding millions of people to an existing population without a plan is looking for trouble.

One thing about the immigrants the US has had, the ones coming from south of us, they want jobs and have work they can do. I have never heard if that is the case with the ones coming from the Middle East to Europe. Some Europeans regard it as a takeover, which may not be true but this is a culture that is very different or has been. Does it want to integrate as so often older immigration populations have wanted to do? I don't know enough about the work end of this and have not seen articles that address it. The new arrivals cannot stay indefinitely in what amount to concentration camps. What comes next for the three million already there with more to come?

The other thing that I think most nations need to consider is if we are facing global climate change, this current migration may be a drop in the bucket to what is coming. I don't know if most of our governments, worldwide, are ready for that.

janinsanfran said...

Hi Rain: the one piece of this about which I agree with you is that governments have to PLAN because more migration is a sure thing. If they do not, they will be buffeted by fears of difference that are mostly unjustified.

I am unable to believe that Muslim migrants are a genuine threat to either Europe or the US. And anyone who is a survivor usually wants to work for a new life. My ancestors once thought Catholics were a threat, but that has worked out. Ensure people a decent life and very few want to risk it for any abstraction

Rain Trueax said...

I don't have an opinion on whether it's a threat either. I just know how people see it. I think it's Denmark that is allowing in none of them. They have been a pretty fair culture but they don't want a larger population of Muslims than they already have (and they have a pretty sizable population now from what I have read). My main thing is there have to be jobs. The people who fear immigrants from Mexico are ignoring the fact that there are jobs for which they are needed and currently are doing. Will that be the case in Europe with those coming from the Middle East? I would like to know what these people hope to do to earn a living. Are they educated? Do they mostly speak the language of the countries to which they might go? are they willing to learn and change? If immigrants want to be part of the existing culture they will be seen differently than if they want to change it.

AND if we really are looking at many regions of the world unable to support their existing populations due to climate changes (I've read that climate change is a factor in the Middle East migration now), how do we handle that in the places they want to go? This could even be a factor in the United States, within its boundaries, if like in the 30s, some regions become basically uninhabitable.

tina a Lebanese in Beirut said...

Thank you Jan

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