Tag Archives: Myths

Contextualizing the Child Migrant Crisis

Following is the text of an invited talk I gave at a vigil sponsored by Virginia Organizing.

I’ve been asked to speak today to provide context for the humanitarian crisis that we are facing, to explain why so many young people are showing up at our borders.

Before I do that, however, let me start by identifying some things that have not caused this crisis.

You’ve probably heard a number of pundits, politicians, and reporters blaming the Obama administration, saying that these young people are coming to the United States because our country is too soft, that we treat undocumented people too well.

The problem with this argument is that it does not match the evidence in any way, shape, or form. Since Obama took office in 2008, annual removals have increased dramatically. While Bush deported 2 million people over his 8 years in office, it has taken Obama only 5 years to do the same. In fact, since the start of the Great Recession, the number of removals has increased, even as the total number of undocumented residents has declined. If things continue at this rate, Obama will preside over more than 3 million removals before he leaves office.

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On migration and respectability

Ahh… the age old politics of respectability, most recently appearing in a HuffPo article on what immigrants contribute to the US economy.  According to the writer, an immigration lawyer with decades of experience, “People do not immigrate to the United States to go on welfare!” And “The rising tide of immigration floats the boat of the U.S. economy.”

First, let’s acknowledge that both of these claims are well supported by data.  What’s more, thanks to PRWORA and an ensuing patchwork of state laws, unauthorized immigrants are barred from receiving most forms of welfare, and authorized immigrants are severely limited in their access to public assistance.  With regard to the economy, most reputable scholars agree that immigration has a small net positive impact on the economy as a whole (the impact of immigrants on so-called “low skill” workers is worth discussing, but only inasmuch as the conversation focuses on how corporate capitalism pits workers against one another by manufacturing a sense of scarcity).

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