Editorial Column: The Flaws of American Immigration Rhetoric

President Trump’s flagship policy—the infamous border wall—highlights a flaw in American discourse regarding immigration by focusing on emotional appeals rather than complex, underlying issues. 

Recently, the rate of Latin American immigrants to the United States slowed from 9.3 percent in the 1970s to 2.8 percent, according to the Migration Policy Institute and the System on International Migration in the Americas. According to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) statistics, under the Obama administration, deportations of immigrants reached a record high.

Security is not the issue. Policy measures have been increased to counter immigration, and, statistically, the flow of immigrants has decreased. Behind the guise of immigration rhetoric is a fundamental problem with American thought, however: the continued dehumanization of migrant populations.

report released by the International Crisis Group shows that massive deportations by the Mexican and U.S. governments have not stopped Central Americans who flee poverty and violence. However, the U.S. continues to address these populations as an infringing economic threat and opts for “America First” politics.

Politicians also omit the victimization of refugees in these crises from everyday dialogue, effectively perpetuating economic deprivation, social exclusion and persecution, and the targeting of these groups by organized criminals. In fact, the violence perpetrated by neighborhood gangs earned the Northern Triangle—El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras—the distinction as one of the world’s most violent regions, according to the Washington Office on Latin America.

The United States can implement the most sophisticated strategy to combat immigration. It can build walls. It can separate communities. It can even misdirect the public and claim that these actions make citizens more secure. But the flow of migrants will never stop. Rather than react to surface-level consequences, politicians must change their focus to the root of the problem that facilitates and encourages undocumented immigration: legal red tape, poverty, and violence.