Immigration again: victims of domestic and gang violence

In recent months, there has been a surge in the number of immigrants trying to cross the U.S.-Mexico border. Immigrant rights advocates say that is because they’re fleeing extreme violence in their home countries — violence that shows no signs of abating.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has broad powers over the nation’s immigration courts, has now imposed new limits on who can get asylum in the United States. “Asylum was never meant to alleviate all problems — even all serious problems — that people face every day all over the world,” he is reported as saying. In his decision, Sessions argues the asylum system is intended to protect not victims of violent crime but people fleeing from persecution, like religious minorities or political dissidents. Immigrant rights advocates, on the other hand, fear the lives of asylum-seekers will be in danger when they are returned to their countries of origin.

Sessions and other immigration hard-liners say that it has become too easy to claim asylum in the United States — and that migrants know this and game the system. Immigrant advocates, however, say Sessions is taking away an essential lifeline for victims of domestic abuse and gang violence and turning his back on an American legacy of protecting the most vulnerable, particularly those women who are persecuted by their husbands and ignored by their own governments. (edited version of an article by Joel Rose, NPR News, June 11 2018).

It is legitimate to try to winnow out the cheaters and gangsters. Having said that, the US would almost grind to a halt (only a slight exaggeration) if there were no immigrants willing to serve tables, pick fruit, tidy gardens, clear gutters and paint houses. Why? Because white Americans are not prepared to take those poor-paying jobs, and the white birthrate doesn’t in any case provide a big enough workforce to meet demand. I agree that bringing over grandparents and extended family members is (arguably) a stretch.

It is instructive to note that the Greeks in the days of Epicurus had slaves to do the work similar to that of modern immigrants. But these slaves could look forward to eventual freedom. This wasn’t the slavery of the ante-bellum South. Epicurus himself is noted for treating them with human kindness and respect, welcoming them as equals into his garden.

In short, we need immigrants; let them be.

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