Criticism in the Form of an Open Letter
To Numbers USA
There was a very interesting article on your website titled "The Ethics of Taking Flight" by Roy Beck. "Well, I am happy to concede to my immigrant friends that they have been bold and often brave," is one of his opening comments. However, the tone changes a little bit in the following paragraphs...
There is something curious about this analysis. What is it that actually created the economic, social, and political situations that immigrants flee from? They are fleeing a situation where there is genocide of ethnic groups, such as in Palestine or Yugoslavia. They are escaping from the world's dictators, monarchs, and sheikhs, from places like Iran and Chile. And finally, they are leaving because of hunger, because there is nothing to eat, from places like Ecuador and Afghanistan. People have been living peacefully in agricultural communities in these places for thousands of years. [*1] Why is it that the people can no longer make anything out of it?
In Chile, the dictator was backed by neoliberal and market reformers. General Pinochet accumulated millions from passing laws that benefit foreign investors; we know that he was supported by American capitalists and politicians from reports released by our own intelligence agencies. [*2] The result was disastrous for the people: unemployment rose to 30%, wages declined by 8%, and social spending by 20%. [*3]
This pattern is found everywhere else. In Cuba, it was Fulgencio Batista, who was supported by American capitalists and the mafia who drove the nation into grinding poverty. [*4] In Ecuador, it's heavy loans that were made to corrupt and illegitimate governments that created the poverty. These loans could benefit nobody but the wealthy investors. [*5] Don't forget that the dictator of Ecuador, Guillermo Rodríguez, was trained by the United States Military at the School of the Americas. But this is also true of Juan Velasco Alvarado, the military dictator who overthrew a representative government in Peru. [*6]
In Haiti, it was dictators François and Jean-Claude Duvalier, who incurred massive debt on their country. They earned great personal wealth by serving foreign interests, driving up the poverty of their own nation. [*7] In Indonesia, the dictator Suharto led a coup against an elected ruler, with the aid of the United States. [*8] Once again, wealthy interests were given everything they wanted, including exploited and oppressed labor. Four out of five Indonesians lived on less than $1 a day for Suharto's regime. [*9]
In Burma and Iran, military dictators came to power by the support of American investors and then they drive the people into grinding poverty and harsh labor. In Iraq and Spain, Uganda and Zaire, Yugoslavia and Afghanistan, American capitalists brought some king or general to rule -- and every time, it was the common people who suffered for it. It brought unemployment, low wages, oppression, and miserable work hours and conditions.
Then look at a host of other nations with dire poverty rates: Cuba, China, North Korea, Russia, Zimbabwe, Vietnam, and Laos. These are all places where authoritarian, communist revolutions took place. The people learned everything they needed to know about capitalist imperialism, and this is the reason why they are offended and threatened by western-style "Democracy." Excruciating famines and widespread unemployment in these nations pushed people towards radicalism. It does not justify a government that is equally corrupt and inefficient, but it explains the cause of their economic development: colonialism by Britain, France, Germany, and, of course, the United States.
Maybe the reason why people are emigrating to better conditions is because they feel like staying in their own nation is a lost cause. They feel themselves fighting an insurmountable monster, these brutal and authoritarian governments. But in examining the situation, we evidently find that these situations are brought into existence by the behavior of the wealthy, whether they are European or American.
So, if you really want to talk about the poverty of the people in third world nations, completely discuss it. Do not simply use world hunger as a cover to defend your anti-immigration argument. It is most likely completely forgotten by the time you're deciding the rest of your social policy. If you really want to talk about global poverty, then talk about the events that triggered an economic downturn; talk about what has forced people into leaving their ancestral homes just so that they can eat. Express the relationship between power and wealth in America, and the poverty and hunger in the rest of the world. In short, be honest about the real situation of the world's people.
People immigrate to the United States because they have stomachs that they need to obey. But the United States capitalists cause poverty in those nations because they want to have caviar, Porsches, mansions, yachts, and an endless amount of servants and gardeners. The immigrant is motivated by a need and a will to live; the capitalist investor is motivated by the urge to get rich and live off of the labor of others without contributing. The immigrant has no power at all, and must suffer the knowledge that they, as a human being, are illegal. The capitalist controls every lobbying group, dominates every branch of government, and owns all of the media. If you fight for laws banning or prohibiting immigration, it seems like you are fighting the victim of this situation.
If you want to stop people from coming to America, then stop the causes. Stop the genocide, the exploitation, the destruction and conquest of underdeveloped nations -- stop our companies, our businesses, and our capitalists from propping up dictators, ruining economies, and incurring massive debt. The people will think there is a chance to "strive to raise the conditions for whole communities" if they are not looking at a system where they have no voice or power. If our national corporations did not oppress those all around the globe, then maybe they wouldn't have so much of a need to flee.
Benjamin Franklin, one of our nation's founders and an immigrant, once wrote "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." You're asking for tighter restrictions on borders, the removal of illegal immigrants, and more search and seizures. You want the cure, and it's a cure that uproots people and destroys lives. If you want the prevention, then stop those who exploit their homelands -- stop companies like Wal-Mart and McDonald's. That is the only fair solution, since it places blame on the actor who created the situation: the capitalist.
We have to be looking for a solution that is centered on the needs of living people. We need to think of alternatives to a system that creates a horrendous situation for these people, and then penalizes them for trying to escape. We need to stop thinking of immigration as a threat; and we need to start thinking about Capitalist domination of society as the true enemy of social justice.
Thank you for reading this far. I patiently await a response.
*1. Leften Stavros Stavrianos (1997). Lifelines from Our Past: A New World History. New Jersey, USA: M.E. Sharpe. ISBN 0133570053. Page 70.