The seekers trekking northward from Honduras deserve our admiration and acceptance. Only a small number of the fittest, the most determined and the most intelligent will make it to the U.S. They seek asylum from murderous criminals and risk everything, including their lives, to find a safe haven. People like these are what makes America great. Darwinian selection selects those destined to cross borders. And to climb the highest walls. It’s called “survival of the fittest.” The Central American marchers, the tough men and women, the little kids, represent the best in the gene pool.
Just like the Pilgrims who crossed in the leaky tub called the Mayflower, like the starving Jamestown settlers, like the Irish who survived the potato famine, like the Italians who fled desperate poverty, like the Jews who escaped czarist pogroms, like the million Mexicans who escaped the 1910 Revolution which killed another million, like the Africans who survived the brutal slave ships — all of them were the best.
We are the best country in the world because we are descended from the best.
But we can’t take in everybody from Latin America, even if we need strong workers to till the fields, harvest the crops, slaughter the cattle, and lay cement in the cities.
The chronic violence, poverty and instability of the republics to the south are the “push” factors. The “pull” factors are the jobs Americans won’t do.
So, let’s think outside the box in terms of push and pull factors. Imagine — we finally pay serious attention to Latin America, just like we pay serious attention to the Middle East, to eastern Europe, etc. It’s our responsibility. After all, the Latin countries are U.S. clients — wrong relationship that it is.
• To relieve poverty, we set up guest-worker programs by treaties with the various countries, with safeguards for the workers, with biometric ID cards, and with orderly entry and departure. The free market alone cannot deal with the pull factor of jobs. Government has to regulate the workers. Workers will wait their turn to enter legally if we have a system that predictably guarantees them jobs. The key here is “predictability.”
• We end the disastrous war on drugs, legalizing, taxing and regulating the flow of recreational chemicals. We have not and cannot stop the entry of drugs into this country. U.S. legalization will end the billions of dollars in black market trade which is the main cause of crime in Latin America. Legalization will end the push factor of lawlessness. The tax revenue will pay for addiction treatment in this country.
• We get serious about economic development in Latin America, with a systemic Marshall Plan-type approach, instead of the haphazard way we do things now. If we don’t start a muscular program of development, our rivals, the Chinese will move in and do it. They are already doing it, and we cannot allow that.
• Finally, the toughest part: We negotiate treaties and send our military into the small banana republics to clean out the criminals, the gangsters, the thugs, the political parasites sucking the blood of millions of good people.
We can’t do this in big countries like Mexico or Brazil, but we can clean up failed states like Honduras, El Salvador or Guatemala. This is not old-fashioned Yankee imperialism. The good people in those countries want us to come in and do that.
Joe Barrera, Ph.D, is the former director of the Ethnic Studies Program at UCCS, and a combat veteran of the Vietnam War.