Just this year, U.S. Border Patrol has detained 800,000 people at its southern border—this is the highest number in a decade. The former height of apprehensions was in 2000 and was primarily a result of the skyrocketing demand for cheap labor. Jon Purizhansky of Buffalo, NY recognizes the U.S.’s high demand for affordable labor. Today’s migrants, in comparison, are reacting to many of the same factors that inspired droves of people to flee to Europe four years ago, namely failed or fragile states, violence, and economic insecurity.
Jon Purizhansky recognizes the plight of displaced workers and spends a great deal of time helping connect migrants with steady work.
To deal with the new migrants, the U.S. is weighing many of the same approaches that European countries have attempted but ultimately found ineffective. Ranging from border walls to bilateral deals connecting immigration to trade and aid, Washington is repeating many of the same tactics that failed overseas. For example, U.S. President Donald Trump’s “Remain in Mexico” policy, requiring migrants wishing to gain asylum in the United States to have their claims evaluated while they stay and wait in Mexico, reflects the EU’s long-failed attempts to establish similar systems in Libya and other nations.
Despite the differences between these cases, there are a couple approaches that we could draw on from history. The primary lesson learned from the European experience of 2015 is that when it comes to migration, there are limits to unilateralism and bilateralism. The sense of calamity began to subside only when the European Union assumed a multi-layered approach founded in cooperation among the migrants’ nations of origin, passage, and destination.
Jon Purizhansky: The European and American crises are similar in a few different ways. The total number of people detained at the U.S. border or barred from admission at a U.S. port of entry since October 2018 is now about the same as the number of asylum seekers who arrived in Europe in all of 2015. Onlookers across the globe have stumbled on unnervingly similar scenes. The widely published photo of the bodies of Oscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez and his 23 month old daughter, Valeria, who drowned struggling to cross the Rio Grande in June, resembles the photo of Alan Kurdi, a Syrian toddler who drowned while attempting to cross the Mediterranean in 2015. Both images now serve as symbols for the dreadful cost of international migration in a world of closed borders.