Democrats, build a high wall ... with a big gate

The Modesto Bee (Sunday) - - Issues & Ideas - BY THOMAS L. FRIED­MAN

Ka­mala Har­ris, the Demo­cratic se­na­tor from Cal­i­for­nia, raised eye­brows when she asked Ron­ald Vi­tiello, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s nom­i­nee to lead Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment, whether he ap­pre­ci­ated the “per­cep­tion” that ICE spreads “fear and in­tim­i­da­tion” among im­mi­grants the way the Ku Klux Klan did among blacks.

Har­ris care­fully worded her ques­tion around the “per­cep­tion” of ICE — and it was raised in part be­cause Vi­tiello had once shame­fully tweeted that Democrats were “the NeoKlanist party.”

With Har­ris a likely Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial can­di­date in 2020, Repub­li­can me­dia pounced on her with vari­a­tions of: “Hey vot­ers, get this: Democrats think the ICE of­fi­cers pro­tect­ing you from il­le­gal im­mi­grants are like the KKK. You gonna vote for that?”

ICE does have a bad cul­ture, but it’s not the KKK. At the same time, I don’t think the Demo­cratic Party is just for open bor­ders. Alas, I’m also not sure what ex­actly is the party’s stan­dard on im­mi­gra­tion — and ques­tions like Har­ris’ leave it open to de­mo­niza­tion.

Since Repub­li­cans have com­pletely caved to Trump’s craven ex­ploita­tion of im­mi­gra­tion as a wedge is­sue, the coun­try, as usual, needs the Democrats to be the adults and put for­ward a re­al­is­tic, com­pre­hen­sive ap­proach to im­mi­gra­tion, which now re­quires two parts.

First, is a way to think about the bor­der and, sec­ond, a way to think about all the is­sues be­yond the bor­der — is­sues that are push­ing mi­grants our way. You can­not think se­ri­ously about the first with­out think­ing se­ri­ously about the sec­ond. And if you don’t, last Sun­day’s scenes of Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion of­fi­cers fir­ing tear gas to keep out des­per­ate mi­grants near Tijuana will only get a lot worse.

Re­gard­ing the bor­der, the right place for Democrats to be is for a high wall with a big gate.

Democrats won’t do as well as they can na­tion­ally with­out as­sur­ing Amer­i­cans that they’re com­mit­ted to se­cur­ing our bor­ders; peo­ple can’t just walk in. But the coun­try won’t do as well as it can in the 21st cen­tury un­less it re­mains com­mit­ted to a very gen­er­ous le­gal im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy — and a re­al­is­tic path to cit­i­zen­ship for il­le­gals al­ready here — to at­tract both high­en­ergy, low-skilled work­ers and high-IQ risk tak­ers.

They have been the re­new­able en­ergy source of the Amer- ican dream — and our se­cret ad­van­tage over China.

But think­ing be­yond the bor­der is where Democrats can re­ally dis­tin­guish them­selves; it’s where Trump has been reck­lessly AWOL.

This is how we got to where we are to­day: Dur­ing the 19th and 20th cen­turies, the world shifted from be­ing gov­erned by large em­pires in many re­gions to be­ing gov­erned by in­de­pen­dent na­tion-states. And the 50 years af­ter World War II were a great time to be a weak lit­tle na­tion-state.

Why? Be­cause there were two su­per­pow­ers com­pet­ing for your af­fec­tion by throw­ing for­eign aid at you, build­ing your army, buy­ing your cheap goods and ed­u­cat­ing your col­lege stu­dents; climate change was mod­er­ate; pop­u­la­tions were still un­der con­trol in the de­vel­op­ing world; no one had a cell­phone to eas­ily or­ga­nize move­ments against your gov­ern­ment; and China was not in the World Trade Or­ga­ni­za­tion, so ev­ery­one could be in tex­tiles and other lowwage in­dus­tries.

All of that switched in the early 21st cen­tury: Climate-driven ex­treme weather — floods, droughts, heat and cold — on top of man-made de­for­esta­tion be­gan to ham­mer many coun­tries, es­pe­cially their small-scale farm­ers. This hap­pened right as de­vel­op­ing-world pop­u­la­tions ex­ploded. Africa went from 140 mil­lion in 1900 to 1 bil­lion in 2010 to a pro­jected 2.5 bil­lion by 2050.

Syria grew from 3 mil­lion peo­ple in 1950 to over 22 mil­lion to­day, which, along with droughts, to­tally stressed its wa­ter re­sources. Guatemala, the main source of the mi­grant car­a­van head­ing our way, has been rav­aged by de­for­esta­tion thanks to il­le­gal log­ging, farm­ers cut­ting trees for fire­wood and drug traf­fick­ers cre­at­ing land­ing strips and smug­gling trails.

A satel­lite map just re­leased by Univer­sity of Cincin­nati ge­og­ra­phy re­searchers demon­strated that nearly a quar­ter of the earth’s hab­it­able sur­face changed from just 1992 to 2015, pri­mar­ily from forests to agri­cul­ture, from grass­lands to deserts and from wet­lands to ur­ban con­crete.

Mean­while, the in­ter­net has en­abled cit­i­zens to eas­ily com­pare their liv­ing stan­dards with those in Paris or Phoenix — and find a hu­man traf­ficker to take them there. China joined the WTO, dom­i­nat­ing low-wage in­dus­tries, and the end of the Cold War meant no su­per­power wanted to touch your coun­try, be­cause all it would win was a bill.

So it’s now much harder to be an av­er­age lit­tle coun­try. The most frail of them are hem­or­rhag­ing peo­ple, like Guatemala, Hon­duras, El Sal­vador, Su­dan and most ev­ery na­tion in Sub­sa­ha­ran Africa. Oth­ers — Venezuela, Syria, Afghanistan and Libya — have just frac­tured.

To­gether, they’re cre­at­ing vast zones of dis­or­der, and many peo­ple want to get out of them into any zone of or­der, par­tic­u­larly Amer­ica or Eu­rope, trig­ger­ing na­tion­al­ist-pop­ulist back­lashes.

But not only. I was in Ar­gentina last month and am in Peru now; in both coun­tries I found peo­ple wor­ried about the refugee flows from Venezuela. Peru has taken in 600,000, and it’s be­gin­ning to stir re­sent­ment here among lower so­cioe­co­nomic classes.

The BBC re­ported in Au­gust: “Tens of thou­sands of Venezue­lans are flee­ing their coun­try amid chronic short­ages of food and medicines. The coun­try’s long­stand­ing eco­nomic cri­sis has seen more than two mil­lion cit­i­zens leave since 2014, caus­ing re­gional ten­sions as neigh­bor­ing coun­tries strug­gle to ac­com­mo­date them.”

The story added, “The UN — whose mi­gra­tion agency has warned that the con­ti­nent faces a refugee ‘cri­sis mo­ment' sim­i­lar to that seen in the Mediter­ranean in 2015 — is set­ting up a spe­cial team to co-or­di­nate the re­gional re­sponse. … More than half a mil­lion Vene- zue­lans have crossed into Ecuador this year alone and more than a mil­lion have en­tered Colom­bia in the past 15 months.”

There are now more climate refugees, eco­nomic mi­grants search­ing for work and po­lit­i­cal refugees just search­ing for or­der than at any point since World War II — nearly 70 mil­lion peo­ple ac­cord­ing to the In­ter­na­tional Res­cue Com­mit­tee, and 135 mil­lion more in need of hu­man­i­tar­ian aid.

A re­spon­si­ble pres­i­den­tial can­di­date in 2020 needs a pol­icy that ra­tio­nally man­ages the flow of im­mi­grants into our coun­try and­of­fers a strat­egy to help sta­bi­lize the world of dis­or­der through climate change mit­i­ga­tion, birth con­trol dif­fu­sion, re­for- es­ta­tion, gov­er­nance as­sis­tance and sup­port for small-scale farm­ers.

This is our big­gest geopo­lit­i­cal prob­lem to­day. For­get the “Space Corps”; I’d make the “Peace Corps” our fifth ser­vice. We should have an Army, Navy, Air Force, Ma­rine Corps and Peace Corps, to send Amer­i­cans to help sta­bi­lize small farms and gov­er­nance in the world of dis­or­der.

And this has to be a global project, with the U.S., Eu­rope, In­dia, Korea, China, Rus­sia, Ja­pan all con­tribut­ing. Oth­er­wise the world of or­der is go­ing to be in­creas­ingly chal­lenged by refugees from the world of dis­or­der, and all ra­tio­nal dis­cus­sions of im­mi­gra­tion will go out the win­dow.

SIGNE WILKIN­SON Wash­ing­ton Post Writ­ers Group

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