Attorney Glenn Formica
For whom is the crisis at the border a crisis? Is it a crisis for the 70,000 children expected to show up at the U.S./Mexico border by December? The children who are fleeing poverty and violence? Is it a political crisis for advocates of immigration reform, such as the president, who must now contend with the “optics” of the children massing at the border? All the while, hate-filled opponents criticize “lenient” deportation policies by an administration that has deported more individuals than any prior administration.
The crisis — properly described — is a crisis of an American public that has been fattened on the idea of easy answers to any problem or challenge. Economic problems that are easily answered by deregulation, low interest rates, and low taxes; only to become a financial crisis requiring debt and taxes on the poor and middle class. Foreign policy challenges in complex Muslim societies are resolved by fist-pumping military adventures that end in overcrowded military hospitals where prosthetics are attached to the souls of wounded soldiers. So, too, is the crisis at the border apparently resolved by the easy answer of sending children back to poverty, gangs, and indefinite suffering.
To resolve the crisis, the U.S. must begin the long process of unraveling the complexities of a global foreign policy in the principal countries from which these children are coming: Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. These are countries with long histories of U.S. interventions, whether fighting communists or drug cartels. Not surprisingly, the children are coming to the border following the routes of smugglers, whether humans or drug cartels.
In my immigration practice, I see the practical effect of our current immigration laws, which limit the opportunity for seasonal and industrial-critical labor supply, while imposing harsh penalties, such as ten year bar to re-entry for those who voluntarily depart. This creates a situation where an undocumented worker must decide between returning home or never again entering the U. S. The choice is between providing for your family, or living with your family in unbearable poverty.
Some in the U.S. would say that a problem in Guatemala is not our concern. But that view ignores the reality that the U.S. has become a black hole, around which its international neighbors orbit and are too often swallowed into oblivion. And that view fails to acknowledge that the U.S. is dependent on illegal immigration for low food costs, cheap hotel rooms, and other key sectors of its economy. At the same time, the very visitors who provide such opportunities to Americans are criminalized and dehumanized.
The crisis at the border is a crisis for America, and its origins and causes are many. There will be no easy answers. But in finding the answers, the U.S. public must not blame the children at the border — like the divorced father who punishes his child to tears, because they left their toys on the floor overnight.
Attorney Glenn Formica is an immigration specialist who practices in New Haven.