The Asylum Crisis Is Our Government’s Own Doing! The Immediate and Long-term Solutions

The United States’ law on asylum [8 USC 1101 (a) (42) (a) and Immigration and Nationality Act, INA 101 (a) (42)], reflecting the United Nations’ 1951 law on asylum, provides that asylum be granted only to persons qualifying as strictly defined “refugees”, i.e., persons fearing persecution by their own governments, due to race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. Asylum, according to the U.S. law, does not apply to persons escaping poverty or crime in their own country. Again, government persecution in the country of origin is the absolute legal requirement for asylum. Crime and poverty in the country of origin are not the basis for obtaining asylum, according to the U.S law.

The Holocaust, the most shocking persecution of all time, prompted the United Nations’ and the United States’ laws on asylum and informed them. Given public knowledge that there is no government persecution in Central America or Mexico, the legal requirement for obtaining asylum in the U.S. does not exist for any of the migrants reaching our southern border, and there is no need for any court proceeding to establish that reality. Asylum requests from all the migrants are clearly invalid on their face, “open and shut” cases not requiring hearings.Therefore, those migrants have no right to a judicial hearing, and should be expelled immediately whenever they reach U.S. soil, not detained. That would greatly reduce the number of migrants very quickly.

As for the enormous asylum cases backlog, it is our own bureaucratic creation, the result of relatively new immigration policies which conflict with our own asylum law. Those bureaucratic policies have expanded the legal definition of “refugee” for asylum purposes to include persons fleeing spousal abuse, ordinary crime, gang violence, and poverty. In other words, general humanitarian concerns have distorted our asylum law, as bureaucratic policies with no legal basis have greatly widened the definition of “refugee”. The situation is untenable and totally unrealistic, since by current U.S. immigration policy half of the world’s population qualifies for asylum! The immediate solution to our asylum crisis is eliminating the illegally expanded definition of “refugee” by the bureaucracy, and returning to the law’s own strict definition.

The illegally expanded definition due to humanitarian concerns has come about with the tacit consent of recent presidents, mainly George W. Bush and Barack Obama. But such well-meaning humanitarianism has actually been counter-productive, leading to many migrant deaths. It has provided an escape valve allowing Central American and Mexican governments to shirk their responsibility to solve their economic and social problems. And it has prevented the United States from making a serious effort to help solve those economic and social problems, the only sustainable and truly humanitarian solution.

The fact is the United States has been incompetent for over fifty years in its efforts to contain illegal immigration from Mexico and Central America, focusing on border barriers instead of addressing the causes and eliminating them. It’s been the equivalent of repeatedly putting up sandbags to deal with recurring floods instead of building drainage canals and reservoirs.

No one disputes the causes of the illegal immigration from south of our border: widespread poverty, economic underdevelopment, low wages, crime, high unemployment, all caused by a low level of education. The obvious sustainable solution is a “Marshall Plan” to provide an excellent education to all young Mexican and Central American youth through a major Peace Corps initiative, and to promote economic growth through infrastructure investments. A socially and economically prosperous Mexico and Central America would be of great benefit for all: illegal immigration would evaporate and trade would increase dramatically, greatly raising economic growth north and south of the U.S. southern border.

Many will object that such a solution is a long term one, not an immediate one. But it is the only sustainable solution. Had it been fully embraced back in the early 1960’s after President Kennedy created the Peace Corps, the problem would have been solved by the 1990’s. It is illogical to postpone implementing the only available long-term solution.

The benefits of such a “Marshall Plan” would go beyond the illegal immigration and economic aspects. It would generate enormous goodwill towards the United States in Latin America, and it would provide many young Americans graduating from college a valuable and rewarding 2 to 4 year Peace Corps experience which would help them in their professional careers, directly or indirectly.

As for objections that such a “Marshall Plan” would be too costly, they are myopic. The Marshall Plan for Western Europe after World War II had an enormous return on investment for the United States, both in terms of our economy and of our foreign policy. The same result would derive from a “Marshall Plan” dedicated to Mexico and Central America. Furthermore, a correct understanding of QE would eliminate misguided concerns about our federal government debt, and allow for the easy financing of such a “Marshall Plan”, which if intelligently managed would turn out to be one of our nation’s greatest moral, political, economic, and social achievements.

© Edward Sonnino 2019

July 2, 2019


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Edward Sonnino

Edward Sonnino

Born and raised in New York City. Best course in college: history of art. Profession: economic forecaster and portfolio manager. Fluent in French and Italian.