Propping up the economy is not a good justification for immigration

Andrea Mérida Cuéllar
June 29, 2018

Since the Trump administration has been caught red-handed violating the human rights of people fleeing economic and political upheaval in Central America via child separations at the border, I have noticed a few well-meaning folks trying to combat the naked white supremacy demonstrated by those who are ok with Trump’s actions.

I would caution allies to do some self-examination, as well as some review of American history, before wading into those waters.  This is a time when we can chop away at both white supremacy AND American imperialism at the same time, if we tread carefully, especially as we attempt to tackle the false idea that immigrants are a drain on the American economy.

The only economic aspect of immigration we should consider is the economic turmoil this government inflicts on Latin America.  It is IRRELEVANT to the conversation to use the justification that “immigrants are good for the economy,” or that “they pay more in taxes than the cost of services they get.”

Here’s where this stance is problematic.  Making immigration fit in your brain by talking about the economic “benefit” of immigrant labor is precisely the justification this country used for SLAVERY.  Similarly problematic is the worry about “produce is rotting in the fields.” By saying things like this, you are demonstrating a core belief that human beings exist for the purposes of capitalism.

Here’s a quick demonstration of the pro-slavery sentiment held by just a couple of the southern states as they moved toward secession.

or even…

Is this what you mean to say?

Because history is clearly repeating itself, only now with my people as opposed to only African descendants (frankly, Latin Americans include people from the African diaspora as well), I am even more firmly in solidarity with the African diaspora around the world.

Migration is a human right. Children have the human right to stay with their families. Human beings do not exist to be resources for capitalism. The only economic question we should be asking is why in the hell is policy like NAFTA still in place? And also, what is our government doing to create the catalyst for migration in the first place?

And hey, can we talk about the drug war?  Or about how about the ongoing, “Manifest Destiny-style” plunder and destabilization that passes for foreign policy regarding Latin America in general?  It’s no coincidence that the people seeking asylum in this crisis at the border come from the very countries that have suffered the most from American foreign policy.

We do have to be careful, also, that we’re not advocating for a “humane” detention policy regarding immigrants.  Right now, companies like the GEO Group, CoreCivic and Southwest Key Programs are raking in millions in federal dollars to detain immigrants.  Just look at just one example of how GEO Group uses that money to influence federal elected officials.  Advocating for “humane detention” is also a posture that, at least indirectly, advocates for the extraction of economic benefit from human beings for some very wealthy people.  It is definitely the posture of Democrats in Congress.

So what’s the solution to the crisis?  The first step is for each of us to do some deep examination of our values regarding human rights.  Using the economic argument as a justification for immigration is, with all due respect, a white supremacist, imperialist posture to take. Human beings need no other justification for migration other than the fact that it’s their right as human beings.  Some soul searching would reveal whether we feel that some human beings are only worthy of some rights.  If so, why?

Start scrutinizing the military industrial and carceral complexes and the justifications of policymakers for them.  How do those square with your own ideas of human rights?  Are they justifying expansion of private prisons by hammering on the public’s belief about certain things about immigrants and other oppressed people?  Are you willing to test those beliefs with real-life information?

It’s time for us to start taking responsibility for how this government shows up in international politics.  Let’s work together to tear down this imperialist, white supremacist war machine and instead build a country based on the values of people, peace and planet over profit.


Andrea Mérida Cuéllar is a co-chair of the Green Party of the United States, as well as of the Green Party of Colorado.  I am a socialist, an intersectional feminist, and proud to be a working-class Latina.  I live in Denver with my partner of 20 years, our two grown sons, a dog and two cats.  I punch fascists back, and I love anti-oppressive and anti-capitalist people.

The Democratic Party is where progressive movements go to die, so do not come at me until you’ve read The Democrats, by Lance Selfa.  You can get it here.

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