Illegal Immigration is a hot-button issue in the current U.S. prudential campaign. Actually, immigration has been an issue for a large part of U.S. history (e.g., Chinese immigrants in the mid-19th century, Irish immigrants during the Potato Famine, and the eugenics movement in the early 20th century), but its current form is geared toward illegal immigrants, typically Mexicans who are “crossing the border.” Donald Trump’s insane campaign has targeted the anger (and often flat-out racism) that surrounds this issue. But are Trump and his supporters alone in this plight?
Nope. Illegal Immigration is an issue politicians take up worldwide. Vox actually had an article about the international immigration issue a few days ago, but I had already started this post at this point. Here are a few examples, slightly geared toward places I’ve been/lived:
- Australia. Australia has faced an influx of asylum seekers who arrive by boats from Indonesia, and this is a huge hot-button issue. In 2013, Tony Abbott, current Prime Minster of Australia campaigned on the issue: “Stop the boats.” He also was quick to implement it when he came into office, implementing a program to intercept and force the boats to turn back. Still, there is a human side worth noting–specifically a 2013 article from New York Time Magazine of two journalists who took a boat from Indonesia before being intercepted on the way to Christmas Island.
- The Netherlands. There are several right-wing anti-immigration parties in Europe right now, but one I knew from my time in the Netherlands was the PVV party (in English, the Party for Freedom). Geert Wilders started this party back in 2005, and he is quite the personality himself. He repeatedly uses anti-Islam rhetoric (famously comparing the Quran to Mein Kampf, and campaigned to have the Quran banned in the Netherlands), but his Party for Freedom also advocates a halt to immigration of non-Western immigrants. While his influence might seem minor, his party placed third in the 2010 Dutch elections, and the PVV was in a coalition with the primary parties in the Netherlands. Their influence declined after the 2012 elections, but they are still an active element in Dutch politics.
- United Kingdom. David Cameron, the current Prime Minister, has campaigned to reduce the influx of immigrants into the U.K., but has been criticized for his efforts. Part of this issue has led to the increased influence of the U.K. Independence Party (UKIP), which is far more anti-EU and anti-immigration than the Tories are. Nigel Farage is also another personality and leader of the party.
- Malaysia. In 2009, Malaysia banned hiring of foreign workers (unless needed, but mainly in blue collar jobs) to curb illegal immigration.
- Mexico! Mexico has its share of illegal immigrants, too, not only from Central America but also from Asia. In fact, Mexico had it’s own version of Arizona’s papers-please law before having a more liberal policy on immigration (punish them with a hefty fine) to give illegal immigrants rights and due process.
- Bulgaria. A few weeks ago, Bulgaria finished a razor wire fence to prevent immigrants coming through Turkey.
- Hungary. Currently, Hungary is completing a fence on the Serbian border to prevent illegal immigration.
And the list goes on. Not to mention, just this week alone, we had dozens of dead migrants in Austria, more capsized boats off Libya, migrant protests in Germany, and the on-going issues in Calais of migrants trying to get into the U.K.
Considering the world-wide issue of immigration, where exactly does Trump think all these illegal immigrants in the U.S. will go if we kick them out? Everyone is dealing with the same problem.
Sure, I sympathize with the economic and “fairness” issues surrounding illegal immigration. I have immigrated to two different countries myself, through legal channels, and my employers have put up the cost for my visas (and some personal expense when getting my Dutch visa…long story). I also sympathize with the idea that immigrants can overwhelm our resources in certain regions–jobs, hospitals, schools, etc.
But they are still people. And they are leaving their homes for a reason. As long as there is a huge disparity between the “first-world” and “third-world,” we are going to have people fleeing in the hopes for a better life. Our first-world economy is built on the third-world labor markets to produce cheap goods for us to buy. Many of these migrants are refugees from places that we as Americans have meddled and destabilized (e.g., Iraq, Afghanistan, etc.). Also, we must acknowledge that our legal immigration process should be easier (example: John Oliver discusses the insane process for translators that helped us during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars trying to get visas). Can the process be improved? Definitely. But just booting people out of the country is unrealistic and callous.
I am sure many of my friends out there will think my views on this matter are simply the words of a beading-heart liberal. Maybe that is true. Illegal immigration is a complex problem that requires a solution on many different levels, and I do not claim to have the perfect solution. But my main point is this: we must remember that illegal immigrants are still people. The fact that anti-immigration rhetoric and xenophobia are highly correlated is a huge issue in itself. Many people fleeing their countries are fleeing for a reason—and instead of compassion, they are met with prejudice and violence. Illegal immigration is a problem, but it is a problem that should be met with more “Christian” attitude than a basic “us vs. them” mentality.