As we head into the 2022 midterm election, the Trump-controlled Republican Party is escalating its anti-immigrant hysteria with warnings of an alleged invasion of undocumented migrants wearing expensive clothes and carrying Gucci bags. This is not a joke.
“We had 40,000 Brazilians come through the Yuma sector alone to Connecticut wearing designer clothes and Gucci bags,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, told Fox News on October 12. “It is no longer economic migration.”
When asked by the Washington Post for evidence, Graham’s office handed over a photo of a handbag, but the newspaper concluded that it was probably not a Gucci bag. Graham’s office also provided The Post with another photo of someone wearing fairly clean Puma tennis shoes without laces.
When I asked a Brazilian official about undocumented migrants carrying Gucci to his country, he laughed and said he was willing to bet it wasn’t an original branded bag. In Brazil, people buy fake handbags at flea markets or, much like in New York City, from illegal vendors on the street, he said.
But the alarm over the alleged growth of undocumented middle-class migrants is just the latest version of Trump’s Republican scare tactics to trick Americans into believing their livelihoods are threatened by an avalanche of dark-skinned third world immigrants.
In fact, as I wrote several times in this column, the United States desperately needs more immigrants, not less.
America has an increasingly aging population and a shrinking workforce, which means we badly need more young people to fund Social Security payments for those who retire.
According to the World Bank, Fertility rates in the United States fell from 3.65 children per woman in 1960 to 1.73 children per woman in 2021, which is lower than the rate of 2.1 children per woman needed to replace annual deaths.
And right now, there are labor shortages all over America. A record number of American workers – 4.3 million, or nearly 3% of the workforce – quit their job in Augustbecause people demand better pay and more flexible working hours when they return to the workforce after the COVID-19 pandemic.
Former President Trump and other anti-immigration fanatics will tell you that they are not against immigration, but only against illegal immigration. But that’s another big lie.
Under the Trump administration, the United States administratively reduced legal immigration by nearly 50%, according to the National Foundation for American Politics.
The whole problem of American immigration is wrongly called a “border crisis” when in reality it is a “Latin American crisis”.
Unless we tackle the root causes – government corruption, drug-related violence, and droughts caused by climate change – Latin Americans will continue to settle in the United States, legally or illegally.
Even in Argentina, the country in the most remote region, seven in ten young people say they prefer to live in another country, preferably in the United States or Spain, according to a new survey from consulting firm Voices and UADE University.
Frank Sharry, head of America’s Voice immigration advocacy group, told me that “we need a hemisphere-wide approach that includes a serious attempt to stabilize the countries that generate migrants ”, as well as expanded legal avenues so people can come legally, and a serious attempt to crack down on traffickers.
If we are to reduce migration, it is essential to help improve conditions in Latin America.
I used to think that the best way to do this was to create a hemisphere-wide free trade area. But that’s politically impractical these days, as short-sighted protectionist interests, both in the United States and in Latin America, have prevailed.
But there is another way for Washington to promote hemispheric progress and match China’s growing influence in the region: to get U.S. multinationals to diversify their supply chains away from China. and move them to Latin America.
This would produce a flood of US investment in the region and slow down illegal migration. Biden is expected to make it the cornerstone of next year’s Summit of the Americas, to be held in the United States.
I seriously doubt there are hordes of undocumented migrants with Gucci bags crossing the southern border. But even if it does, we will never resolve the mistakenly labeled “border crisis” until we begin to tackle the “Latin American crisis”.
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This story was originally published October 15, 2021 7:51 pm.