An immigration lawyer once told me bluntly: Immigration is a wedge issue.
Wedge issues don’t get resolved. They get used by both sides to mobilize their base. Exhibit A: President Trump’s seizing on the caravan of migrants two weeks before the midterm elections. On Thursday news leaked that the president is considering announcing a plan to shut down the southern border entirely for nearly all asylum seekers.
I have covered immigration for three decades. I am the child of immigrants, the only one in my family born in this country. I have twice made the same journey those in the caravan are making, traveling the length of Mexico with Central American migrants. These people deserve our compassion. But I lived in Argentina during the military dictatorship, and I also believe that nations must preserve the rule of law.
For anyone who actually wants to work to resolve the immigration issue — not just use it to bludgeon the other side — I have a plan. Neither Democrats nor Republicans will love all of it. But it is relatively humane and fair, it would keep more migrants at home, where most would rather live and, unlike President Trump’s proposal, it would actually adhere to the rule of law.
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First, some facts. The flow of migrants is a quarter of what it was at its high point in 2000 and it is no longer predominantly made up of Mexicans seeking a better life. Now, the majority of migrants are from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, and most are coming because someone back home is trying to harm or kill them and their governments cannot or will not protect them.
Even those who say they are leaving their countries because they lack jobs are often indirect victims of violence and political corruption. I have spent time in a neighborhood in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, where a majority of businesses have shut down because gangs demand weekly war taxes. Failure to pay equals death.
By Sonia Nazario for THE NEW YORK TIMES
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