President Donald Trump has made opposition to immigration the cornerstone of his administration. The way he speaks about it, one would think it’s a problem.
But it’s not. The reality is there is no “immigration crisis” in the US. It is a myth — a lie.
In the aptly titled “The Myth of the U.S. Immigration Crisis,” Bloomberg’s Noah Smith points out that, since 2007, net undocumented immigration to the US has been negative or nearly zero.
A study by the highly respected Pew Research Center shows how net unauthorized migration to the US has halted in the past decade.
The reasons for this become clear when one looks at the massive drop in undocumented immigration in 2008 — the time of the global financial collapse — and in the years immediately after.
In 2007, there were some 12 million undocumented immigrants in the US. Since then, that number has fallen.
From 1994 on, NAFTA undermined and disrupted local economies in Mexico on behalf of international capital and multinational corporations, leading to a mass exodus of workers seeking ways to put food on the table for their families. When the US economy tanked in the “Great Recession,” it became clear that there were few economic prospects here.
Migration to the US from Mexico has diminished since 2007. Central America is a different story; the region is roiled by US-backed drug violence, economic turmoil, and poverty, along with brutal US-backed military coup regimes, in the case of Honduras, and many of the people fleeing the area are likely refugees under international law. Migration to the US from Central America has increased, but overall net unauthorized migration has remained stagnant — amid mass deportations.
To be clear, the Obama administration contributed more than its share, deporting more people than any previous presidential administration. Kicking out nearly 3 million undocumented migrants and refugees earned Barack the ignominious moniker “deporter-in-chief.”
The fact of the matter is that the so-called “immigration crisis” in the US is a trumped-up lie (pun intended) used to justify mass detention and deportations.
Corporations behind the prison-industrial complex make boatloads of money, as detention facilities expand, are guaranteed bed quotas, and are increasingly privatized.
It matters not that migrant detention abuse can scar children for life. It is just too profitable.
Moreover, the big businesses profiting from the military-industrial complex are swimming in cash, thanks to fat contracts they receive to more and more heavily militarize the border every single year. (Yes, there already is a wall on the US-Mexico border; it’s been there for decades, built and expanded by the administrations of Bill Clinton, George Bush, and Barack Obama.)
By further criminalizing migrants, capitalists can also ramp up exploitation of migrant workers. The libertarian argument that corporations seek open borders and do not want limitations on migration is only partially true; it depends on the industry. For some businesses, especially those that heavily rely on migrant labor, a crackdown on immigration is great: it helps further discipline the labor force.
When they are criminalized and fear detention and deportation, migrant workers have even fewer protections. They can be paid smaller wages, given no benefits, and forced to work long hours. The government will not protect their rights as workers, because, were they to report labor abuses, they would risk being detained and deported. Corporations can rake in more and more profits, while their migrant workers are more and more exploited.
What’s more, far-right politicians are — surprise! — using the non-existent bogeyman of “illegal immigration” to justify their racist, xenophobic, jingoist policies. They can scapegoat and draw attention away from domestic problems (e.g., rising levels of obscene inequality, crippling austerity policies, the privatization and degradation of public schools and infrastructure, etc.) and instead blame the imaginary influx of “bad hombres.”
Reactionary racists can furthermore exploit the big lie to help fulfill their dream of Making America White, I mean Great Again.
Trump and his far-right ilk may claim undocumented immigrants are “taking our jobs,” but there is no proof of this. In fact, studies show the opposite. Unauthorized migration neither increases unemployment nor lowers wages.
To be clear, there is no question that the US immigration system is broken, but it is broken in the opposite direction: migrants and refugees are the ones hurt by it, not citizens.
That is to say us. We are the ones who are hurt. The capitalist class wins, and the people lose.