The Answer to the World's Problems — Immigration to America

By Mark Krikorian on January 24, 2010

For the second time to three days, the Washington Post has an op-ed calling on us to help Haiti by reducing the number of Haitians living there. Elliott Abrams' piece, which I critiqued here on Friday, was wrongheaded in calling for substantial increases in Haitian immigration but at least it didn't reject American sovereignty. On the other hand, this most recent piece, by tranzi economist Michael Clemens at the Center for Global Development, is remarkable as an example of forthright post-Americanism. For instance:

We do know, however, why many individual Haitians are poor. For a large number, there is a clear reason: Many have been willing and able to leave Haiti for American shores, but armed agents of the U.S. government have forcibly stopped them or deterred them from trying. If they had not been stopped, virtually none of them would have been as poor and vulnerable as they were on Jan. 12.

Oh my, armed agents forcibly stopping illegal immigration — the boot of the Coast Guard is stomping on Haitians' faces forever. As for "many" Haitians who are willing to leave, Clemens himself notes that 51 percent of Haitians told Gallup last year that they want to emigrate — that's 4.5 million people.

And there's this:

A moderately educated adult male, born and schooled in Haiti, typically enjoys a standard of living more than six times greater in the United States than in his homeland. In other words, U.S. policy wipes out more than 80 percent of a Haitian's earning power when it keeps him from coming to the United States. ... The difference has nothing to do with his ability or effort; it results purely from where he is.

Well, not where he is, but who he is — he's not an American, so he has no right to come here and increase his earning power. His unwillingness to even acknowledge the distinction between Americans and foreigners stands out in sharp relief when he asks:

Who [in the wake of Katrina] would have blocked Interstate 10 with armed guards, forcing hundreds of thousands of people to suffer in the disaster zone, no matter how much assistance was coming in from outside? We wouldn't have done that, because it would have made us collectively responsible for their continued suffering. Why then, in the thoughtful debate that has emerged over how best to aid Haiti and help its citizens help themselves, are Americans still quiet about this sinister face of our immigration policy?

Even without the post-Americanism, this would be morally infantile. In fact, any putative claim of Haitians to enter the United States based on suffering would pale in comparison to the millions of Congolese peasants who've died as a result of the war there — was our immigration policy "sinister" because we didn't take them? And if increase in earning power is the appropriate moral yardstick, then Haitians would still have to wait in line, after Zimbabweans and Nepalese and Ethiopians, among others.

The author's political agenda is clear — use the earthquake as a rationale for "comprehensive immigration reform":

The earthquake in Haiti has laid bare the consequences of our restrictive immigration policies.

Or, as he's written elsewhere, "immigration policy debates must take some account of their massive effects on poor people overseas."

On the other hand, I can't wait for the amnesty crowd to adopt this line of argument — it would do more to sabotage amnesty than any number of May Day marchers holding Che Guevara posters.

Editor's Note: If you enjoyed this blog, please visit our Haitian Immigration overview page.