In the era of globalization, when goods and services move freely between countries, it is necessary to consider the concept of labor migration. While we encourage the movement of goods and services, our country is challenged by the movement of people who seek to perform important jobs in our economy.
An example of this is the recent spate of incidents at the US-Mexico border. This phenomenon has led many to think that we are experiencing an “invasion”.
However, numbers can be misleading, as the indicators used sometimes do not account for the recidivism of migrants attempting to re-enter.
In fact, of the more than 2 million people arrested in fiscal year 2022, 22% were arrested at least twice.
In addition, the number of asylum seekers from authoritarian countries – Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua – increased by 175% this year. At the same time, the number of migrants from the Northern Triangle countries of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras decreased by 45%.
The 1.6 million apprehensions in 2021 should also be carefully analyzed, as only 40% were Mexicans, reversing a long-standing trend.
In the era of globalization, cross-border movements with points of entry and exit are natural for the normal flow of goods, services and workers. Border control has three main objectives: to intercept drugs, to stop undocumented migration, and to keep out terrorists and those on watch lists. These goals are more effectively accomplished at airports, but at the 2,000-mile southern border, these goals are nearly impossible to achieve.
What is the solution to this problem? Achieving legal reform will be politically difficult when opponents stoke public fear of uncontrolled migration.
However, a reformed system that supports legal pathways to family reunification and workforce needs could help reduce the number of illegal immigrants entering the United States. By creating more legal pathways to entry, we can meet our future demand for jobs in a safe and orderly manner.
The labor force of globalization makes border control more difficult. Ending both human trafficking and smuggling requires new forms of international cooperation. Regional structures can help limit unauthorized migration while providing protection for those fleeing violence and extreme poverty.
Proposed solutions depend on international cooperation and increased resources to help expedite asylum hearings and focus on other humanitarian protection needs. This can be done by creating safe havens close to people’s exit points from their home countries, allowing them to apply for asylum and avoid making dangerous journeys.
Catholic public teaching reminds us that sovereign states have the right to defend their borders and admit those who conform to their laws. But this must be balanced with the overall welfare of those seeking access and the needs of the country.
When we look at refugee and asylum issues around the world, such as Poland’s acceptance of more than 2.5 million refugees from Ukraine, we realize that our country can be much more generous. We must also expand legal pathways for workers and family reunification.
Globalization requires a new US immigration system that only immigration reform can provide.
Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, the seventh bishop of the Diocese of Brooklyn, continues his research on undocumented migration in the United States.