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August 2, 2017
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To deport or not to deport

Opinion

August 2, 2017

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Twenty-four years ago, in order to escape poverty and violence, Nury Chavarria left Guatemala and crossed the border into the United States without a visa. Since then she has lived and worked and raised four children in Norwalk, Connecticut.

But on July 19, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) ordered her deported back to Guatemala. Why? Because she is an undocumented immigrant and President Trump maintains undocumented immigrants are responsible for an increase in the murder rate and violent crimes and a decrease in the material standard of living of middle and lower-class citizens.

However, it is not true that the murder rate has increased. “Innumerable studies have confirmed two simple yet powerful truths about the relationship between immigration and crime: immigrants are less likely to commit serious crimes or be behind bars than the native-born, and high rates of immigration are associated with lower rates of violent crime and property crime. This holds true for both legal immigrants and the unauthorized, regardless of their country of origin or level of education. In other words, the overwhelming majority of immigrants are not “criminals” by any commonly accepted definition of the term.” 

Furthermore, as we shall see below, undocumented immigrants are not responsible for the fact that middle and lower-class individuals and families have suffered a decrease in their material standard of living. But first let’s deal with the argument that undocumented immigrants should be deported because they are here illegally.

Clearly when Ms. Chavarria and other migrants crossed into our country without visas they became “illegal” immigrants.  But before you condemn them for their actions you might think about what you would have done if you were in their shoes.

Then, too, you might consider just how difficult it is for poor, working class individuals fleeing violence and poverty to obtain green cards that allow them to enter and stay in the United States as permanent residents.  And consider also that, as Anatole France put it: “The law in its majestic equality forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, beg in the streets and steal loaves of bread.” Or recall that Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to move to the back of a bus in 1955.

Or following the lead of John Rawls, you might reflect on the rules and enforcement mechanisms you would want to govern your world if when you woke up you weren’t sure whether you were an undocumented immigrant or a citizen. Or consider the ethical arguments for open borders in the article on immigration in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.  Or view Harvard Philosopher Michael Sandel’s discussion of the topic.  Or read Seyla Benhabib’s, the Eugene Meyer professor of Political Science and Philosophy at Yale University’s, essay on The Morality of Migration.

The point is: we want our laws and the mechanisms we use to enforce them to reflect the enlightenment values embodied in our founding documents. So, ask yourselves if law enforcement officials who would force Nury Chavarria to return to Guatemala reflect those values.

Now let’s consider issues related to the economics of illegal immigration.  Economics at its heart is about cost/benefit analysis.  So, economists ask whether the cost of illegal immigrants in the U.S. outweighs the benefit they provide from the point of view of the country as a whole or low skilled workers or highly skilled workers or business women and men or the country the immigrants left or the world.   And their answers are: the benefit of illegal immigration far outweighs the cost for: the country as a whole, highly skilled workers, business owners and the world. But for a few low skilled workers and some municipalities the cost slightly outweighs the benefit.

In summary, “illegal” immigration is not the problem it is trumped up to be (pun intended).  And, for President Trump to suggest illegal immigrants are in any way responsible for an increase in violent crime or a decrease in our collective welfare is worse than nonsense.  It is reprehensible scapegoating.

 

This article has been excerpted from: ‘To Deport or not to Deport’ Courtesy: Counterpunch.org

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