Monday, September 14, 2015

Refugees From Reality

These are tough times if you're an immigrant. Throughout the world, people are running away from their homes, most with good reason. In the muslim world, Sunnis and Shiites are going all out to eradicate each other, armed by various political factions with their own specific agenda.  In the meantime, hundreds of thousands of Middle Eastern refugees have mobilized to the north and west, crowding Europe with the largest mass movement since the Second World War.

But those aren't the only people on the move. In the western hemisphere, migration is a distinctly one-way affair as well, with innocent Latinos and Hispanics fleeing for their lives, too. They all venture north, terrorized by lawless regimes, often at great risk to their own lives.

It's difficult to put aside emotions when the media is flooded with stories, graphics and video of the danger and terror these millions of victims face.  It's easy to open your heart and think, "We're so fortunate. We have so much. We need to provide these people with a safe harbor."

I don't disagree.  But I do have a question or two.

It's one thing for refugees to escape rampant murder and pillage, seeking a safe place to wait out the storm. It's quite another for them to abandon their homelands forever.  So people in host countries aren't out of line when they ask how long will it be before the crises in the refugees' homelands are ended? And when those crises do end, will those immigrants return?

If you're following this, stick with me, because it gets more interesting.

There's no question but that once arrived in a host country, it's only natural that immigrants put down roots, if only as a matter of survival. Refugees arrive with their families, who need food, shelter and schooling, just like anyone else. Along with the establishment of those roots comes a network of friends, employment and family, which in relatively short order becomes a socio-economic structure of support that's far more oriented to permanence than its original short-term purpose. As a result, many more immigrants choose to stay in their adoptive refuge than to return home.  And the longer they stay, the more permanent their stay is likely to be.

It makes sense that immigrants should choose to stay. I know I probably would.  But the untold cost of their choice never gets reported by the media.  Specifically, politicians and media choose to ignore that the real problem with immigration isn't the refugees, it's the warring factions in their homelands. Unless and until those warring factions have either been removed or resolved, no sane refugee would ever want to return.

All of which brings into question the solutions for removing those warring factions. By now, it should be clear that none of these embattled countries and failed states are capable of, or even motivated to restore peaceful security to their citizens. In the shrewdest sense, their agenda and goals are more easily achieved by the removal of their opposition, whether by escape or murder. Everywhere you look, these failed states show no sign of restoring any kind of former civility and thus far, no native opposing forces seem up to the task of removing them from power.

This leaves host countries with two choices: They can either accept the flow of immigrant refugees and crowd their own borders until there are no more to accept, essentially draining the populations of the war torn states on a permanent basis. Or the host countries can deploy armed forces of their own, rooting out the war lords in hopes of establishing the security that would lure the refugees back home.

I can hear the Facebook rants now, decrying the latter proposition as merely one more tool by which Dick Cheney can line Halliburton's pockets.  Or some idiot diatribe about how America is only happy when it's at war. That's nonsense. Refugees and immigrants know there's a real problem at home. People in host countries need to help them out.  But the real way to help is by our giving them a solution.

When you think it all the way through, we should be helping them get back home, not necessarily providing them a new one.


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