Although it was harsh and unfair of former President Donald Trump to castigate would-be Latin American immigrants as ne’er-do-wells and hoodlums, he was correct about migrants exploiting our asylum system.
The vast majority of Mexicans and Central Americans who want to cross the border illegally are economic migrants. Many have job prospects, courtesy of Americans who have no reservations about hiring undocumented workers. They are not legitimate asylum seekers.
Unless we further open our economy to Latin American products or pump funds into their economies, our neighbors will continue “exporting” surplus labor and impoverished subsistence farmers. Instead of badmouthing them or accepting dubious asylum claims, we should:
• Coordinate with America’s food industry to significantly increase the number of H-2A Temporary Agricultural Workers visas. Create new H-2A categories for the housing, roofing and construction, sanitation and landscape industries.
• Set up asylum hearings at our embassy and nine consulates in Mexico. Five consulates are on the U.S.-Mexico border. This eliminates the self-defeating practice of allowing asylum claimants into the U.S., only for them to “disappear.”
• Prosecute those that employ and exploit undocumented workers (it was hypocritical of Trump, upon recommendation of members of Congress from both parties, to commute the sentence of Sholom Rubashkin, who used 389 undocumented Central Americans, including underaged children, at his Iowa slaughterhouse).
• Forego amnesty programs for individuals who knowingly broke U.S. immigration law.
Economic migrants will not cease coming. But they should not be allowed to manipulate our asylum system while we conceive ways to offer legal temporary employment here or improved prospects back home.
George W. Aldridge