You don’t really expect this post to offer the panacea to the problem of immigration. But you are taking the trouble to read it, just in case I may have something to say that has not already been said dozens of times about it. Thank you for the compliment and for the confidence. I’ll try not to disappoint you.
The Mediterranean has for some time been the center of attention, as statistics mount and desperate refugees drown. This week the focus has switched from Italy’s refusal to accept any asylum-seekers except those on Italian boats, to the U.S.-Mexico border, where children are being separated from their illegal immigrant mothers. Melania Trump and Laura Bush have been weighing in, pleading for compassion – thereby questioning what Donald Trump insists is part of the Law (illegal immigration is; separating children from parents is not). Jeff Sessions, a.k.a. Mr McGoo, has dared to quote St Paul to defend Trump’s heartlessness. Rednecks would give God a red face, if He had one.
I am the grandson of legal European immigrants to Australia. I was myself a legal immigrant to the U.S., where I spent ten years as a “resident alien”, and then an immigrant to France where I was lucky enough to obtain both a residency visa and a work permit, before becoming a French citizen. I can only imagine the hardship and horror suffered by people traveling thousands of miles to cross the Mexican-American border illegally, and then being incarcerated and separated from their children.
History has been one of emigration and immigration from before the emergence of Homo Sapiens. Sometimes it has involved claiming a “terra nullius” (literally a “no man’s land”), as did Australia’s first immigrants 60,000 years ago. More commonly it meant invasion of occupied foreign territory by war, or by confiscation and colonization (as in Australia 230 years ago), accompanied by the decimation, enslavement or genocide of its occupants. The Maginot Line could not prevent the Germans from marching around it, and even a Mexican wall is unlikely to stop those south of the border from tunneling under it.
In a perfect world, national borders would be respected and immigration controlled by rational laws and compassionate policies for the admission of immigrants and asylum seekers. In the real world, economic inequalities coupled with the instinct for survival will always result in legal and illegal immigration, whatever the risks and whatever the measures taken to control it.
Is there any hope of finding an acceptable, humane solution to this challenge, where residents’ rights are respected and refugees’ needs are met with compassion and generosity ? We all hope there is, but we cannot ignore the magnitude of the challenge or underestimate the cost involved. For there is a price to pay, financially and ideologically. We must make sure that the people we elect are capable, ready and willing to engage in rational discussion and in the formulation and application of reasonable, just laws which protect the rights of both residents and would-be immigrants. The U.S. is paying the price for having elected the wrong people. Can Americans fix their problem, can we Europeans fix ours ? Yes, we can !