Today, I am sharing with you some personal political opinions because I think our nation lives in a state of fear and naivety when it comes to immigrants in the USA. More specifically, when it comes to immigrants from Mexico or Central American countries. I am referring to immigrants who are living in our communities currently trying to seek assistance or get citizenship and immigrants at the border or on their way as I type this and they are praying to arrive in the U.S. safely. (You can read updates here, here, here and here.)
First of all, like some of you my heart has been aching and my soul horrified to see children, families, and to be more general, just HUMANS traveling on foot and arriving at the borders of our country – specifically – the U.S./Mexico border. While they seek shelter, food, help, or are living on the hope of a better life they have been utterly neglected and abused. Here’s the thing. If I was them, if you were them, if WE lived in the places they lived and WE suffered through what they have lived through – the hunger, abuse, fear, I would be one of the first people to pack up my family and start walking to find a better place. Many of you would do the same. It could be any of us.
The irony of trying to close or limit the U.S. or Mexico borders to anyone seeking asylum, refuge, or simply a better life than where they are coming from is layered with a world history of privilege, tyranny, and luck. How do we justify if someone is simply fortunate enough to be born in America or a stable country and how do we justify if someone is not? Do you consider your global citizenship and responsibility for other humans around the globe or only in the country you reside? When the original immigrants landed in what is now known as the United States of America and took it away from American Indians (I don’t use this term lightly in place of Native Americans, it has been recorded that Native Americans prefer the term American Indian – because – technically – anyone born in the USA could claim Native American, so I do so entirely out of respect to their request.) and then slavery built this country, there is no one other than the American Indians who should really be deciding who can and cannot be here. But while we know reparations of any type will not take effect quickly enough to justify any type of fairness in equality or who is allowed to live in America. Allow me to tell you about one of my best friends, Daphne Blanchard…
Daphne earned her master’s degree in International Relations at the University of San. Diego (USD) in 2018 with an emphasis in economic development and diplomacy in Latin America. (I’m the BEAMING PROUD friend!! She officially walks at graduation later this month and is well on her way to being an amazing diplomat!!!) She concluded her program by writing a paper Immigration and National Security: An Empirical Assessment of Central American Immigration and Violent Crime in the United States. Her paper was published in December! Another proud friend moment. Since then the US consulate in Tijuana asked if they could distribute her paper and they contacted her and asked her if she could travel there to meet with the diplomates to brief them. Not only that, the US Consulate General Sue Saarnio reached out about her paper as well. For the past few months Daph has been offering her own policy recommendations to slow the flow of migrants northward by offering career development and growth opportunities in Mexico amongst one of her ideas.
In this paper, Daphne discusses and highlights the facts of these issues. I won’t be sharing her entire paper here which is why I linked to it above and I encourage you to read it. But I am going to share some statistics and important FACTS that are frequently lied about in the media or by our POTUS causing citizens of the USA to assume the worst.
- The internet and social media have heightened the risk of mass manipulation and emotional decision-making in immigration policy.
“The caravans with Honduran and Salvadoran origins became a flashpoint in the immigration debate during the November 2018 midterm elections. President Trump described the migrants’ northward journey as an “invasion of our country” and his supporters produced a controversial political commercial on the topic featuring footage of a Mexican undocumented immigrant, Luis Bracamontes, bragging about his murder of police officers in 2014, followed by images of Central American asylum seekers and the tagline: “Stop the caravan. Vote Republican.”16 Although widely rejected by major television and news outlets on both sides of the aisle for being “racist” and misleading, and by Facebook for its “sensational” content, the ad was seen approximately 6.5 million times while featured atop Trump’s Twitter page.17 Mr. Bracamontes has no known ties to the 2018 caravans and was deported during the respective Democratic and Republican administrations of Clinton and Bush.” – Page 5
- Studies show that as immigration levels have risen in the United States, overall violent crime rates have reduced. (READ THAT AGAIN. AND AGAIN.)
The relationship between immigration and crime in the United States has been studied at length by scholars whose findings convey a similar conclusion: that immigration does not increase crime and violence, in fact, in the first generation it seems to reduce it. This work attempts to upend the common perception among criminologists, sociologists, policy-makers, and the general public that these groups have a propensity to settle in poor neighborhoods and commit crimes, often called the “social disorganization” theory. A trend that emerged, however, is that second and third generation immigrants do show an increase in incarceration rates beyond that of their parents and grandparents, although not to the extent of native-born citizens. – Page 11
- The violence that Northern Triangle migrants are fleeing is not translating into more violence in American communities, as the public discourse seems to suggest. The Central American migration threat has been hyper inflated in scope and potential for insecurity.
- Connecting all immigrant with the violent acts of a few stalls progress on immigration reform, influences public opinion and immigration policy decisions without data to support the level of threat, creates an atmosphere of conflict surrounding those requesting asylum and settling in American neighborhoods, and is counterproductive to keeping Americans safe. Anxiety-inducing messaging from elite levels slows productive, compromise-driven dialogue that is necessary for immigration reform and effective allocation of finite resources.
The second half of Daphne’s paper focuses on her policy recommendations to help this issue. Brilliant ideas that start with the most basic concept of reducing the threat narrative surrounding immigrants and Central American migrants to encourage fact-based immigration policy-making and to aid in their assimilation.
- Rather than try to change the mind of the Trump administration, it may be more impactful to target the hearts and minds of the American people through campaigns to show the human side of the Northern Triangle immigrants. When so much of the public discourse is centered around the threat of their arrival and connections to violent crime, it is imperative to engage media, community, and non-governmental organizations in an effort to balance the dialogue surrounding the migrants and inform the American public of the extent of the threat. Scholars have done extensive research and found that immigration and criminality are not linked in the first generation, but they struggle to share their message on platforms that reach the majority of citizens. – Page 23
- Offer sustained and increasing support to sending communities to reduce the push factors of migration.
- Support other host countries to create additional safe havens in the region.
Helping the host countries of the region, specifically Mexico, through funding and support of development, rule of law, education, and industry-growing initiatives could provide an alternative to the United States when migrants are in search of a safe haven. – Page 25
Daphne recently completed an interview with the Latin news channel Univision Los Angeles. Daphne speaks Spanish but to prepare for the interview she went to Tijuana where her UAG friends (University fo Alpha Guardian where she serves on the advisory board) came to her rescue and gave her a 3-day crash course on Immigration policy Spanish terms and interview practice. Daph shared with me personally that “The cool thing that came out of it was the feedback I got from my friends. They said they feel more peace and less anxiety about the Central American migrants crowding into their city (Tijuana) – that the results I found made them feel safer and more willing to reach out to the newcomers. They said how much it meant to them that an American cared enough to study the topic and took the time to find out concrete evidence of whether immigrants cause more violence. Another friend who fled violence in Mexico City (and escaped a kidnapping attempt with her and and her kids in a taxi) told me that my research meant a lot to her because she has struggled as an immigrant in the United States because people are often scared of her or her family due to what they hear in the news connecting immigrants and crime. That fear keeps them from getting to know that instead of bringing violence, she actually worked in Mexico to help women flee domestic violence and helped families gain access to resources to better their situation through her job with a government agency.”
She also added, “My hope is that people will be more critical of the information they hear and ask, Who said it? Why did they say it? (What interests may be at play here?) What evidence do they have to back it up? Facts, not fear, need to be the bedrock of our decision making. That is the only way we are ever going to come up with lasting solutions to the immigration question.”
As for me, my hope is that when the 2020 elections come around you will keep these facts in mind. C.S. Lewis once wrote, “One of the most cowardly things ordinary people do is to shut their eyes to facts.” Consider that our POTUS sometimes instills fear in Americans to get what he wants but it’s not in the best interest of the global community. Not in the best interest of humanity.
This week Daphne is working on her application for the foreign service and studying for the Foreign Service Officer Test. If this issue and many more that conflict our world concern you, send up a prayer of good luck for her. Or send good juju out in the universe in her honor. She, with many others, are fighting the good fight to care for this world.
Because keep in mind, most of us, are immigrants.
In the comment section, I’d love your thoughts.