Immigration Problems Will Only Get Worse

Americans should not fail to recognize the inevitable: the immigration problem will only get worse. The current crisis with Haitians flooding the Texas border isn’t an isolated event. Haitians (and Hondurans and Salvadorans and Guatemalans, Vietnamese and Jews, etc.) have been seeking asylum in the United States for decades. The irony is that Europeans invaded a populated continent in the 15th and 16th centuries in order to gain shelter from abuses and to gain better livelihood. We are those Europeans…and all who have come since.

“Of the roughly 1.8 million Haitians living outside their homeland, the United States is home to the most, about 705,000. Significant numbers of people from the Western Hemisphere’s poorest country also have settled in Latin American countries like Chile, where an estimated 69,000 Haitian immigrants reside, according to the Migration Policy Institute.

“Nearly all Haitians reach the U.S. on a well-worn route: Fly to Brazil, Chile or elsewhere in South America. If jobs dry up, slowly move through Central America and Mexico by bus and on foot to wait — perhaps years — in northern border cities like Tijuana for the right time to enter the United States and claim asylum…

“Many Haitians began attempting to enter the U.S. in the 1980s by sea. Most of them were cut off by the Coast Guard and perhaps given a cursory screening for asylum eligibility, said David FitzGerald, a sociology professor at the University of California, San Diego and an asylum expert. In 1994, U.S. authorities reached an agreement with Jamaica to anchor ships off its coast to hold shipboard hearings for Haitians intercepted on boats. Attempts by sea waned after a Supreme Court decision allowing forced repatriations without refugee protections.”[1]

Illegal immigration from Haiti has plagued multiple presidencies. After the devastating earthquake in 2010, Haitians first flocked to Brazil to jobs in support of the 2016 Olympics. When those jobs dried up, President Obama at first allowed some to enter the U.S. on humanitarian grounds, but soon began flying them back to Haiti. Trump’s solution was widely panned for its inhumanity, and now Biden faces even bigger numbers of determined illegal immigrants due to the recent assassination of the Haitian president and ensuing political chaos, exacerbated by yet another massive earthquake.

Under Biden, the United States has pledged more than $32 million in aid to Haiti in addition to the disbursement of more than 160,000 pounds of food aid, construction of field hospitals and temporary shelters, and has flown more than 400 injured Haitians to medical attention in Port-au-Prince and elsewhere. But U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) administrator Stephanie Power remarked that the United Nations estimates a total need of over $187 million. All this follows a similar aid effort after the 2010 earthquake of over two billion which still reverberates through USAID and the Red Cross, among others.

2015 report by the Government Accountability Office found the USAID efforts were hampered by ”lack of staff with relevant expertise, unrealistic initial plans, challenges encountered with some implementing partners, and delayed or revised decisions from the Haitian government.”[2]

“The Red Cross says it has provided homes to more than 130,000 people, but the number of permanent homes the charity has built is six. NPR and ProPublica went in search of the nearly $500 million [donated for this cause] and found a string of poorly managed projects, questionable spending and dubious claims of success, according to a review of hundreds of pages of the charity’s internal documents and emails, as well as interviews with a dozen current and former officials.”[3]

Haiti is not the only neighboring nation subject to earthquake and devastating hurricanes. In the coming decades as sea levels rise and incidence of violent weather increases, human populations will suffer more such hardships. All the Caribbean islands as well as coastal cities including our own will face the destruction of storm surges, hurricanes, and other flooding.

Of course our first reaction to news reports showing border patrol officers on horseback charging at desperate refugees is sympathy for the refugee and disgust with the officers’ tactics. But we need to ask ourselves, honestly, what are the options?

Already we have spent billions of taxpayer dollars in an effort to rebuild Haiti so that its people can remain and thrive in their homeland. But isn’t this a repeat of similarly futile efforts in areas of the United States where massive flooding occurs yet when the water recedes, we provide money to rebuild in the same flood-prone locations?

Current crisis at Del Rio, Texas.

We have just witnessed influx of over 70,000 refugees from Afghanistan as the extremist Taliban takes charge of that country.  The need to accommodate refugees on our lands is not limited to neighboring countries like Haiti. We’ve seen the steady push of Syrian refugees into Europe, of Palestinians, of Colombians… As of 2020, 82.4 million people worldwide were forcibly displaced as a result of persecution, conflict, violence, human rights violations or events seriously disturbing public order. Of these, nearly 26.4 million are refugees, around half of whom are under the age of 18.[4]

Lest we in the United States shed a tear for all our sacrifices, readers should be aware that the U.S. falls far short of addressing the global refugee crisis compared to other nations. The following report by the Norwegian Refugee Council reveals the big picture. In order of the most refugees per a nation’s population, here are the heavy lifters:

1. Lebanon – 19.5 per cent of the total population

Lebanon, with a population of 6.8 million, is currently hosting an estimated 1.5 million refugees from Syria. The real number is probably even higher because the national authorities demanded that the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) stop the registration of new refugees in 2015. In addition, hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees live in the country.

Lebanon itself has been ravaged by a civil war that lasted from 1975 until 1990. It is a densely populated country with a fragile political balance between different ethnic and religious groups.

In 2019 and 2020, the situation has gone from bad to worse, with large-scale popular protests eventually leading to the Prime Minister’s resignation. Unemployment is sky-high and the country’s currency has dropped in value by 85 per cent, meaning much of the population is no longer able to afford the necessities of survival. Recent surveys put more than 50 per cent of the population below the poverty line. For Syrian refugees, the figure is even higher, with 83 per cent living below the extreme poverty line.

On top of an already difficult situation came the Covid-19 pandemic and the Beirut explosion, which killed more than 200 people, wounded more than 6,000 and displaced around 300,000. Lebanon now has an urgent need for the rest of the world to step up and help the country that has taken the greatest responsibility for helping displaced people.

2. Jordan – 10.5 per cent

Jordan has received over one million refugees in the last ten years. The vast majority were fleeing neighbouring Syria. While a comparatively small number have since decided to return to Syria or have been able to resettle in other countries, there are still more than 660,000 Syrian refugees registered with the UN refugee agency living in Jordan today.

Over 80 per cent of Syrian refugees in Jordan live in urban centers where they face the challenge of finding sustainable work and affordable housing. Competition for limited employment opportunities can lead to tensions with the local population. The remaining 20 per cent of Syrian refugees live in one of two refugee camps, established by the Jordanian authorities for Syrian refugees and managed by the UN refugee agency.

Jordan also houses 2.3 million Palestinian refugees. These are people who fled or were expelled from their country during the 1947-49 Palestine war and the Six Day War in 1967, and their descendants.

3. Nauru – 5.9 per cent

This small island state has received boat refugees who were trying to get to Australia when Australian authorities refused to accept them. The UN refugee agency has been highly critical of the agreement Australia has made with Nauru and other countries and is concerned about the reprehensible conditions the refugees live under. Australia has now agreed to stop sending refugees to Nauru.

4. Turkey – 5.0 per cent

Turkey has received more refugees than any other country since 2011 – as many as 4.3 million. Turkey is a large and populous country and is better equipped to handle the challenge than, for example, Lebanon. Nevertheless, it is challenging to provide protection to such a large number of people within a few short years. Turkey signed an agreement with the European Union (EU) in 2016 that prevents refugees from moving on to Europe. This has had serious consequences for both the refugees who have made it to Greece and those who remain in Turkey.

5. Liberia – 4.1 per cent

Liberia is another country that has shown great hospitality to displaced people. It has received 212,000 refugees, even while the country itself was in a difficult situation. Liberia went through a long and bloody civil war just a few years before it opened its doors to refugees from the Ivory Coast. It was also hit hard by Ebola, which meant that refugees from the neighbouring country could not return home as quickly as the UN refugee agency had planned.

6. Uganda – 3.7 per cent

Uganda has received 1.7 million refugees over the last ten years and is one of the largest recipients of refugees in the world. In recent years, Uganda has provided protection to people from DR Congo and South Sudan in particular, but the country has also received refugees from Burundi, Somalia, Rwanda and several other countries. Uganda is a pioneer in integrating refugees and giving them full rights.

7. Malta – 2.7 per cent

Malta is the Western country that has received the most refugees relative to its population. The country is located near the coast of North Africa and receives many refugees and migrants trying to reach Europe from Libya. The pressure has become even greater since Italy has made it almost impossible for rescue vessels to dock at its own ports.

8. Sudan – 2.6 per cent

With over one million refugees since 2010, Sudan is the fifth largest recipient country in absolute numbers. Most have fled the conflict in neighboring South Sudan. Sudan is also a key transit country for refugees from Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia, among others, who are trying to flee to Europe.

9. Sweden – 2.6 per cent

Sweden has long had the most generous refugee policy in Europe and, unlike many other countries, has actively welcomed refugees. But the large influx of refugees to Europe in 2015, where many European countries were unwilling to share the responsibility, led the government to introduce a temporary law that limited the rights of refugees to a minimum of what the country has committed itself to through international conventions. Despite this, Sweden still received far more refugees than most European countries.

10. South Sudan – 2.5 per cent

Although South Sudan is better known for its own displaced population, it is also home to more than 300,000 refugees from neighbouring countries. Most are refugees from Sudan who fled conflict in the border states of South Kordofan and Blue Nile in the years after South Sudan gained its independence in 2011.

In addition to these ten countries that have received the most refugees relative to their population, there are certain populous countries that have received a large number of refugees during this period and have contributed positively to giving many people a secure future.

The most important of these countries are:

Germany – 1,265,000 refugees (1.5% of the total population)

Ethiopia – 943,000 (0.8%)

United States – 773,000 (0.23%)

Bangladesh – 675,000 (0.4%)

Kenya – 394,000 (0.7%)

Russia – 453,000 (0.3%)

Cameroon – 416,000 (1.5%)[5]

~~~

Clearly these various concentrations of refugees result from the recipient nations’ proximity to those in crisis. Just as Haitians find the United States near enough to gain access to our borders, so do populations in the Middle East seek safety in nearby places. Yet the numbers alone should help us in the U.S. consider the big picture of what likely lies ahead not only for us, but for the rest of the world.

Nations in political crisis have no leadership or organizational capability to handle emergencies like floods, earthquakes, or war. Just as wars in the Middle East will likely not end anytime soon, and thus refugees in that region will continue to seek safety and the means of livelihood, so will environmental and political crises continue to send waves of refugees to American borders.

Americans need to unify behind some clear-cut policy.

  • Do we allow refugees to enter the country illegally? If not, what is the answer to situations like the current influx of Haitians? Aside from a fence, which has already been considered, tried, and seen to fail, what possible barrier can we construct to force refugees to abide by our policies?
  • Border patrol agents are duty bound to stop people from swarming into the U.S. illegally. Is it unreasonable for them to chase down people trying to evade our laws? It seems clear that anyone trying to enter the country illegally already knows they are breaking the law. That does not bode well for their actions and attitude once in our communities.
  • We have rules, specific steps a person must take to apply for asylum before entering the U.S. Are we to ignore those rules?  
  • How much money should we spend to improve conditions in places like Haiti?
  • How much should the U.S. or the UN interfere in places like Haiti where the government has more or less collapsed following the assassination of their president? Do we or the UN force a government model and de facto leaders in such situations? The U.S. has a dark history of interfering in the governments of other countries, most notably in efforts to displace so-called socialist or communist regimes, which in turn has contributed to their political instability. How would our interference now be any different?
  • What is the alternative?

Each of us needs to consider these questions and understand our responsibilities to communicate with our elected representatives as they grapple with this problem.

TOPSHOT – Newly sworn in US citizens celebrate and wave US flags during a naturalization ceremony at the Lowell Auditorium, where 633 immigrants became US citizens on January 22, 2019 in Lowell, Massachusetts. (Photo by Joseph PREZIOSO / AFP)JOSEPH PREZIOSO/AFP/Getty Images

[1] https://apnews.com/article/technology-mexico-texas-caribbean-united-states-ac7f598bafd44b3f95b786d2d800f3ce

[2] https://www.npr.org/2021/08/26/1031496730/the-u-s-is-pledging-aid-to-haiti-but-the-success-of-past-efforts-has-been-mixed

[3] https://www.npr.org/2015/06/03/411524156/in-search-of-the-red-cross-500-million-in-haiti-relief

[4] https://www.unhcr.org/en-us/figures-at-a-glance.html

[5] https://www.nrc.no/perspectives/2020/the-10-countries-that-receive-the-most-refugees/

Shall We Pray?

A-Prayer-For-You

On any given day, my Facebook feed usually includes one or two prayer requests for sick or injured people. Or for a ridiculously premature infant. Or for someone on his death bed.

I can mostly ignore these random posts. But big events like the tornadoes and flooding of the past weekend bring on an avalanche of prayer requests. These in turn provoke me to rant. Hence, the following.

“Pray for Garland/Rowlett, Texas,” one post says. Pray for what? For God to wave a magic wand and restore everything to its condition before that big funnel cloud did its work? For all those newly homeless people to feel better about being homeless?

Everyone wants prayer, but exactly what the prayer is supposed to accomplish remains obscure.

Survivors of disasters often say God is good. It’s a blessing, they say. It could have been worse. Invariably there’s a wild-haired lady on the TV news saying “Praise God” even though her house is now a mile-long debris pile. None of this makes sense.

One must question the logic of thinking that the same God who invented cancer would somehow change His Mind and heal someone’s cancer because of prayer. If God has any power to answer prayers, God also has power to keep bad stuff from happening in the first place. What kind of ‘merciful’ God sits back, watches a tornado do its damage, then ‘hears’ prayers and decides what He’ll do to make it all better?

The common belief among the prayerful is that God watches over everything and when bad shit starts to happen, He picks and chooses who will die, who will be maimed for life, and whose house will be destroyed. One wonders about God’s criteria—are the ones who die bad people who need to be punished? If you’re not quite so bad, you only lose your house and, in a true miracle of God’s kindness, find that family photo in the mud?

If you’re so good that God spares you from harm, do you pray to thank Him for sparing you while smugly noting (privately) that you were spared when those folks next door got what they had coming?

Of course Satan comes into the picture. Satan makes all the bad stuff happen. God chases around after Satan trying to fix the damage. People who believe stuff like this actually operate vehicles on our highways. Many of them, against all odds, use computers.

You would think that with the advancement of science, we would no longer cling to such prehistoric beliefs. After all, we know that the mixing of cold and warm air, not Satan, causes tornadoes. We know our bodies are the result of genetics. We carry around devices that allow us to speak with anyone in the world and which convey visual and auditory media of any and all kind. We travel in jets, automobiles, and rocket ships. We explore the sea floor, transplant hearts, livers, and corneas, and watch brain parts light up on MRI screens.

We not only expect to use the latest gadget and demand ever higher Internet speed but require access to the latest in medical technology in order to enhance our erections and save our lives. We want what science (that godless extension of Satan himself ) can give us as long as it makes our work easier and our life expectancy longer. Advanced technology suffers no dependence on God, thank God, yet at the same time John Doe is about to undergo open heart surgery, Nancy Doe is asking all her friends for prayers.

Hedge the bet, then.

At least most of us no longer find it useful to cut the throat of a white goat before the races begin in order to ensure our horse wins. Or gut pigs to examine their entrails before we decide whether to take a vacation. And presumably no one is tossing virgins into bottomless pits so that the world will continue turning. Prayer and the occasional genuflect evidently now suffice in place of all those older more difficult methods of getting God to do what we want.

Prayer is the answer to everything. Football games. Our meals. The start of Congress or the school day. We’re infected with an irrational idea that prayer matters.

How long this nonsensical prehistoric behavior might continue, no one can say. After all, we have no method of disproving the possible intervention of a supernatural being. Whatever It is, It might actually be present on the fifty-yard line. That Mighty Hand might guide a hail-Mary pass, which is, not so coincidentally, a reference to prayer.

Unfortunately, historical evidence suggests otherwise.

This is the same God who, according to His own literature, killed off every single living soul on the planet except Noah’s family. The same God who sat back as blood-soaked centuries scrolled by while the Crusades, Inquisition, and the decimation of millions of indigenous people were carried out in His holy name.

But set all that aside because, well, because that’s what you’re supposed to do.

Why is it so incomprehensible to so many people that God does not and cannot possibly monitor the thoughts, acts, and prayers of all seven billion of us? Oh, sure, it was fine when there were thirty five of us in our tribal encampment. God could hear us then. But now? This is why we must align ourselves with a particular group who finds particular favor in God’s eyes.

Religion, for example. If we belong to the right religion instead of all those other ‘wrong’ religions, God will reward us with hearing our prayers and bestowing a glorious afterlife. Nanner-nanner to all those other infidels.

If this life sucks, well, we’ve been warned about the vale of tears as per Job’s experience in the Old Testament. All that suffering is our punishment for what happened thousands of years ago when Eve learned things God didn’t want her to learn. Why God put the apple there in front of her is just another one of His little tricksy secrets.

To get in good with God, a person must also choose the correct political party. If we’re Republican, we’re much closer to having God grant our prayerful wishes because God knows that Democrats are all lewd, blasphemous commies. And so forth.

Even within the religious Republican ranks, however, one must choose the right candidates and belong to the right branch of the Christian faith. Which one is right depends on who you ask. For those in the Church of Christ, for example, no one but their fellow adherents will see Heaven. Ask any Protestant and you’ll likely find out that all Catholics are going straight to hell. Likewise, ask any Catholic and you’ll find out that anyone not a Catholic is going to hell.

Not to mention what Christians think of Muslims. Or what Muslims think of everyone who doesn’t follow Islam. I admit I’m not clear on the Jewish belief about other faiths, but I suspect it tends toward the same narrow beliefs. Which explains why Israel continues to grab ever more Palestinian lands—“God gave that land to me.”

All of which ignores Buddhists, Confucionists, and Zoroastrianists, to name just three of the multitudinous non-Abrahamist religions.

So what does God think of all this? God only knows. But one thing I’m fairly sure of is that God doesn’t look down from Mount Olympus and tweak the weather to suit His agenda. He doesn’t decide that because gays marry, Texas should be plagued with floods. He doesn’t send his Almighty Wrath to incinerate the American West because Miley Cyrus twerks.

He doesn’t have millions of angels listening to all those prayers wafting up from this planet and prioritizing which ones to ignore. He, if He exists, can’t be a He. He can’t even be a physical entity that might have gender. He would be Unimaginable.

I think the power of prayer, if any, lies solely in its ability to focus the prayerful person’s attention on one thought and within that moment, assure the praying person that he/she has done all he/she could toward a problem over which he/she has no control. Group prayer, like meditation, perhaps has the potential to direct psychic energy toward a particular thought or idea. Which is yet another reason why sending prayers to Unimaginable simply detours any possible useful result of the effort.

Now, on the other hand, if the person is standing there praying for God to solve a problem over which he/she does have control, then God should smite him/her on the spot. Or at least send a tornado their way.