In an absolutely revolting speech in Guatemala, Vice President Kamala Harris told Guatemalans and, by inference, all refugees. Our doors are closed. This post begins with a short guest post from the border from immigration activist Allegra Love and then we present excerpts from two reports that lay out how US imperialism has created the conditions causing refugees to flee. We close with a short excerpt from a post I wrote three years ago citing research that outlines how much refugees contribute if our door is open. We owe it to Central America to open our doors and when we do, we will be repaid many times over for doing so. Lastly, at the end of the post, we offer contact info for our US Senators and Reps. We want you to let them know in no uncertain terms that you oppose Harris’ speech and Biden’s policies and that you expect them to take a stand, as well.
What has become of us as a nation? Where once we welcomed immigrants and refugees, integrated them into the fabric of our communities and benefitted for the contributions they make to our economy, now we build walls and prisons, separate families and close our borders. This post questions that position and offers good reasons for rethinking these inhumane policies. Read on!
From Allegra Love
I don’t know how many folks caught the news clip of Kamala Harris in Guatemala telling people who are thinking of migrating: Do not come. Do not come. It was chilling and deceptive and made my heart sink to see it so righteously pronounced.
That message is not just for Guatemalans it is for all people outside of the US. This is *exactly* the same policy that the Trump administration deployed. Tell people not to come and when they do– because migration is pushed and pulled by far more powerful forces than a Vice President’s stern warning– then hurt them every way you possibly can because they didn’t listen.
I am at my office on the border for the first time since Biden took office and nothing has changed: detention numbers are rising even in spite of a horrible COVID outbreak in NM detention centers; huge numbers of families are being held in Mexico because of border closures designed to deter them; judges are enacting the will of the White House political deportation machine; and punishment and violence to people’s bodies is the norm.
Nothing about the assault on asylum has changed except one thing: there is very little national outrage when it comes out of the Biden administration. We are an exhausted and broken country, I know, but the Biden administration’s policies on the border right now have the exact same effect as Trump’s even though a less odious person is delivering them.
Better solutions exist, they aren’t necessarily easier and they will certainly piss off the right (but everything does anyway). But these solutions are less violent and far more humane than what Kamala Harris did yesterday and our democratic leaders should absolutely be distancing themselves from the White House’s actions until they embrace a more humane path– exactly like they would if it were Mike Pence in Central America openly threatening would-be migrants.
They Come Fleeing Conditions Largely Created by the US & World Oligarchs
By and large people like to be in familiar environs; they do not eagerly venture on dangerous 1400 mile journeys on foot; they do not cheerily say goodbye to their children at the US border. They risk all for one simple reason: they are desperate. And for the most part, they are desperate for one simple reason: the US, us, both. upper and lower case.
Medium published an outstanding piece chronicling US interventions in Central America from the mid 20th century to today. The piece outlines precisely how US policy has destroyed every political reform movement that has surfaced over the last 100 years and how, in each instance the intervention was designed to install a military dictatorship that will ensure an ‘open door’ policy in Central America so that US and other Global North enterprise can exploit workers, extract resources, and plunder forests, rivers, and people.. It is a tale of unrelenting hubris, imperialism, and tragedy. The Medium quite rightly introduces their timeline of interventions with a simple statement.
“Since Theodore Roosevelt in 1904 declared the U.S.’s right to exercise an “international police power” in Latin America, the U.S. has cut deep wounds throughout the region, leaving scars that will last for generations to come. This history of intervention is inextricable from the contemporary Central American crisis of internal and international displacement and migration….It’s time to insist that accepting Central American refugees is not just a matter of morality or American benevolence. Indeed, it might be better described as a matter of reparations.”From Medium: “A Century of U.S. Intervention Created the Immigration Crisis”
Rather than offer a slew of excerpts from the chronology, I ask that you review it yourselves, as The Medium piece is only a 5-10 minute read and when done, you will have refreshed your memory as to US intervention in El Salvador. The second link below will take you to an outstanding graphic from Veterans for Peace. In a very concise and clear graphic it depicts US imperialism and interventionism throughout Latin America from 1800 to today. It only takes a moment to scan, but you will be drawn in, trust me.
Click here to read the short post from Medium.
Click here to review the Veterans for Peace graphic.
The Truth About Refugee Contributions
I spent a bit of time researching online about the impact of refugees on our country. I had a hunch it was a good impact across the board, but I had no idea just how positive a contribution they make. Note, this piece was published in 2017. A few tidbits.
- No refugee has ever committed an act of terror in the US. NONE.
- The graphic at right shows that in the cities that have experienced an especially high infusion of refugees, only one experienced an increase in crime or poverty. All the others experienced significant decreases in both.
- Numerous studies point to how refugees are very entrepreneurial and that rather than stealing American jobs, their efforts result in an increase in economic activity and job creation.
The New American Research Fund has published a report that counters the kinds of misinformation so often promulgated on Fox and by our despicable President. Below is an excerpt from their findings:
- “Refugees have an entrepreneurship rate that outshines even that of other immigrants. The United States was home to more than 180,000 refugee entrepreneurs in 2015. That meant that 13 percent of refugees were entrepreneurs in 2015, compared to just 11.5 percent of non-refugee immigrants and 9.0 percent of the U.S.-born population. The businesses of refugees also generated $4.6 billion in business income that year.
- Refugees contribute meaningfully to our economy as earners and taxpayers. In 2015, the almost 2.3 million refugees captured in our analysis earned a collective $77.2 billion in household income. They also contributed $20.9 billion in taxes. That left them with $56.3 billion in disposable income, or spending power, to use at U.S. businesses.
- While refugees receive initial assistance upon arriving in the US, they also see particularly sharp increases in income (and taxes paid) in subsequent years. While refugees here five years or less have a median household income of roughly $22,000, that figure more than triples in the following decades, growing far faster than other foreign-born groups. By the time a refugee has been in the country at least 25 years, their median household income reaches $67,000—a full $14,000 more than the median income of U.S. households overall.
- Even more so than other immigrants, refugees take steps to lay down roots and build lives in America. More than 84 percent of refugees who have been in the country for 16 to 25 years have taken the step of becoming citizens, compared to roughly half of all immigrants in the country that long. Additionally, more than 57 percent of all likely refugee households own their homes, a figure relatively close to homeownership rate among U.S. residents overall.
- In an era when the country faces unprecedented demographic challenges, refugees are uniquely positioned to help. Recent estimates have indicated that by 2030, 20.3 percent of the U.S. population will be older than age 65, up from just 12.4 percent in 2000. Refugees can help lessen the anticipated strain this will place on our workforce and entitlement programs. An estimated 77.1 percent of refugees are working-age, compared to the just 49.7 percent of the U.S.-born population. Refugees even outshine non-refugee immigrants on this metric: Only 72.2 percent of that group was working age.”
For the full report from New American Research Fund, click: From Struggle to Resilience: The Economic Impact of Refugees in America,
Let Your Senator and US Rep Know How You Feel
No need for speaking points, just let them know that we need to reopen our border, welcome refugees, and help them transition into the fabric of our communities. There are so many communities that have learned just how positively an infusion of refugees can be in local communities. When Roxanne and I went on our 10,000 mile road trip to visit model cities and programs implementing effective progressive policies, we found evidence of these contributions in Buffalo, Detroit, Minneapolis, Rochester and Nashville. In each instance, local economies benefitted not just economically, but culturally. What drives our fears?
Ben Ray Lujan, US Senate
- Dirksen Senate Office Building Suite B40C Washington, DC 20510
- Phone: 202-224-6621
- Link to email form: https://www.lujan.senate.gov/
Martin Heinrich, US Senate
- 303 Hart Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20510
- p: (202) 224-5521
- Link to email form: https://www.heinrich.senate.gov/contact/write-martin
Melanie Stansbury, Congressional District 1 [We will provide contact info for Melanie as soon as it is available. Hopefully this will work.
Yvette Herril, Congressional District 2.
- Link to form: https://herrell.house.gov/contact. But why bother?
Teresa Leger Fernandez, Congressional District 3
Washington, D.C. Office
- 1432 Longworth House Office Building, Washington, DC 20515Phone: (202) 225-6190 Fax: (202) 226-1528
Santa Fe Office
- 1611 Calle Lorca, STE A, Santa Fe, NM 87505Phone: (505) 984-8950 Fax: (505) 986-5047
- Link to email form: Click here to get to his form.
In solidarity and hope,
Paul & Roxanne
Categories: Immigrant Rights
I can recommend “Open Borders” by Zach Weinersmith and Bryan Caplan for a stimulating yet easy read on the subject. Don’t let the fact that it’s illustrated by a the Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal guy, the co-author, Dr. Caplan is a well-regarded professor of economics. https://www.smbc-comics.com/comic/open-borders
The earth is but one country and mankind its citizens.
I think you are way over the top in criticizing Harris for telling Central Americans to stay home. I heard it as warning that if you come, you will be poorly treated at the border and stuck in a system that is badly broken. I heard it as compassionate plea to not come to the US in this time of crisis in our government. I am well aware of the US’s involvement in this region for decades and the damage we have caused. People fleeing violence and chaos are not remembering this at the moment they flee north to save their lives. Where is your compassion in this?
We had two comments stating that I was either impatient with our new administration, that Kamala Harris spoke for Biden (and by extension us) and that after Trump our systems are broken and we need to give the administration time to fix them. My response to that is that this is not an issue that erupted out of thin air. It is impossible to think that the administration hadn’t been considering how to manage the border situation well before Jan 2021. What’s more, Biden was at the table for eight years while Obama did very little to humanize immigration policies. So, I admit impatience on this. Those refugees are fleeing horrors and to be told to just “stay while we figure something out to help you safely stay,” is no longer tenable. Every day they stay is an unimaginable horror and we bear significant responsibility for creating the conditions that cause them to flee. it would have been very easy to state that the US is developing a system to process 12,000 refugees a month beginning on X date, but until then, please be patient. We didn’t say that and hearing that the US planned to throw $1 B at the problem was likely of little comfort to the mom who worries daily that her 11 year old son will be recruited to a gang or that her 10 year old daughter will be raped and tossed in a ditch. With all due respect, we don’t need patience right now, we need a redemption based policy because we badly need redemption for 150 years of exploitation and extraction.
Although I won’t disagree with the contributions that refugees may make, I will disagree with your headline re: VP Harris Embarrasses….First, As VP she is representing the President. Second, the situation that the refugees are putting themselves in when they make this trek in hot weather puts them and their children at risk. Third, there are many important issues that were neglected or made worse during the previous administration. Give the current administration a chance to get positions filled and issues addressed.
I have to say that I don’t understand exactly what specific actions/policies you think would be “a redemption based policy” that could be quickly implemented. To establish refugee status, an immigrant must satisfy one or more of the criteria of the U.N. convention on the status of refugees. It isn’t enough to just come from a country or region with a lot of crime and social problems (otherwise, many residents of South Chicago, Albuquerque or East L.A. would qualify).
To establish this status requires a very long winded legal process where the current immigration court system is already overwhelmed. Expanding this system to deal efficiently and fairly with a much higher volume of applicants for refugee status isn’t something that can be done in months or even years. And this is only one aspect of the issue – one shouldn’t forget about all of the necessary housing, child care, health care and other social service systems that would need to be vastly expanded to deal humanely with a much higher influx of immigrants seeking refugee status. If all of these services aren’t expanded before opening the gates, what do you do with all these people when they cross the border? Drop them off in border towns, or give them a bus ticket Des Moines with a pat on the back and a wish of good luck? Jam them all together in refugee camps with minimal shelter, food and water? What?
One might argue that due to the dire conditions in some countries/regions where the U.S. has had exploitive economic interests, any of the inhabitants of those areas should be automatically accorded refugee status. If so, a huge percentage of people in not only Central America, but also in Mexico, Venezuela, Brazil, North Africa, most of Sub-Saharan Africa and large portions of South and South East Asia would qualify. Are you suggesting that anyone from any of these ‘bad neighborhoods’ should be automatically granted refugee status and immediate, unvetted entry to the United States? (We are talking about literally hundreds of millions of people then).
Finally, I find your claim offensive that the Obama’s administration implemented exactly the same immigration policy as the Trump administration. I don’t recall any pictures of masses of kids locked up in cages under Obama or that he restricted travel from a large number of countries that just happened to be majority Muslim. One can certainly offer reasonable critiques of the Obama and Biden administrations’ immigration policies – but if the critiques aren’t reasonable your credibility is compromised.
I appreciate all the sane and rational comments above.