Migrants braving the Mediterranean in masses, face dangerous water, overcrowded boats, and likely storms.

Want to Stop Illegal Immigration? Make Their Lives Better — At Home

We live in our normal. All people do. The narratives that shape our culture and our lives, create the worldview by which we make decisions and through which we filter our understanding of ourselves and others. But our normal is just that — ours. It is not anyone else’s normal. And until we recognize it, we fail to recognize that every normal is no more than the consequence of the narrative on which they have been fed since infancy.

The great American narrative is one of manifest destiny, a clearing of dangers from a land owned by no one, a New World of discovery. Our narrative, as we have begun in these last few decades to openly admit, lacks the reality of the Native population. It ignores their presence, except in stories of wars fought against unfriendly savages, and the even greater American lie of Thanksgiving, a story of brotherhood and friendship; in which the savages save the lives of their future murderers.

The great American industrial narrative tells of a land to which many immigrants came, worked hard, assimilated, and became part of the fabric of America. It, of course, ignores the reality of those brought here by force, as slaves, freed only as a result of a great struggle, and even then kept shackled through a 13th amendment that bans slavery, except among incarcerants — thereby making Jim Crow laws the greatest force for modern slavery in an “abolitionist” society.

The modern American narrative is of a country so great it has no state as a foe, a country so magical that all citizens of all other countries want nothing more than to find a way to become part of this country.

It’s a nice story. It’s a pretty lie. It’s a Hollywood version of reality that fails to take into account any narrative outside its norm. And that’s fine. It makes life simpler. It gives pat answers to complex questions.

But it fails us in the end.

It fails any version of us, Americans, as adults. As an adult, a human comes to recognize that “normal” was the set of behaviors/interactions/social cues for my home. That normal is not shared. That my normal may be your bizarre. That I may have been in a bad normal, or you may have been in one. And as an adult, each human must come to a new normal when one finds one’s mate and comes to realize that there must needs be a way to create a new path for the new union.

So why have we not come to this understanding as a country? Why have we failed to mature into recognition of the other?

Most of us have never had to move in, much less move into, another culture. Most Americans have grown in their cultural normal without direct exposure to the sunlight of someone else’s normal. Too few of us have traveled outside our national boundaries. And most of us are lucky enough not to ever have changed cultures completely.

For anyone who has had to make such a massive life-change, the answers are obvious. It is never easy to move to another culture. It is even harder to assimilate. Migration is a crisis response; rarely is it accomplished without external forces of friction. Why would anyone leave home unless home was no longer livable?

And the greatest issue in America is that our cultural narrative — that the whole world wants nothing more than to live with us, like us, in our world-view — has led to a covetous stranglehold on, mixed with a boastful flaunting of, our culture.

We must come to recognize that our culture is not remotely the only one worth maintaining. It is not the best, it can only ever be the best we can make it for ourselves. Other ways of life may be the best for other people. In fact, other ways of life ARE the best for other people.

Only through this recognition, this letting go of a capitol-T Truth, can we come to understand migration, immigration, and illegal immigration.

If we want to stop the influx of illegal immigrants, we need to make their lives better — at home.

Cutting ourselves off, placing tariffs on foreign-made goods to cut off foreign trade, insulating and regulating our identity, will only lead those in developing and badly developed country in more dire straits, and therefore more willing to take the legal chances and face the inherent personal risks involved in immigration.

If we help people achieve the goals of stability and prosperity in their homes, we make our neighborhood (that is the entire world) a better, and thus safer place.

I am not the first to suggest this. It is the foundation of the Marshal Plan. That foundation was built on the idea that only American-style Republican Democracy can offer such stability and prosperity, but its roots were in the idea that a safer world for all made a safer world. For all.

If we insist on looking at illegal immigration as a problem, if we insist on placing it in a vacuum and building our walls while we pull in our trade, if we insist on stripping our potential partners of any power they may have to make their homes better, we cannot be surprised that the outcome will only be increased illegal activity, increased crisis-motivated illegal immigration, increased failure to thrive in the places losing their most successful to our demands, shores, and wishes.

We, the globalized and globalizing West, have created this morass from which we are now insistently hiding.

If we wish to heal the wound, we must start through increasing our trade, increasing our interactions, increasing our assistance (and not in the manner we have been doing it which merely kills any free markets abroad), and increasing opportunities for other cultures to grow into their own. Only by helping others reach their full potential can we meet our own.

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