Should Residents of Baltimore and Chicago "Fleeing Violence" be Given Asylum in Canada?

By David Seminara on March 23, 2017

Is it just me or are all Democrats and pro-immigration Republicans reading from the same scripts these days? How many times have you heard variations on this hackneyed sentiment?

We're a nation of immigrants, so we need to bring hard-working, tax paying immigrants who are fleeing violence out of the shadows and give them a path to citizenship.

The talking point I find most offensive is the "fleeing violence" bit. I have no problem with this characterization to describe a migrant who is coming here from an active war zone, like Syria, even if they have already spent time in other safe countries on their way here. But when I hear politicians from some of America's most dangerous cities making blanket statements about migrants from Latin America settling in their cities to escape violence, it makes me want to throw heavy objects at the television set.

Take, for example, Zeke Cohen, a Baltimore city councilman, who recently likened ICE agents to Nazis. Cohen doubled down on this offensive characterization in an appearance on the Tucker Carlson show on Tuesday night. He compared (illegal) Central American immigrants, whom he claimed were "fleeing violence", to his great-grandmother, whom he said fled Austria to escape the Holocaust.

Carlson rightly pointed out that Baltimore has a serious crime problem — it had the second highest per capita murder rate in the country in 2016 — but he didn't ask Cohen why people "fleeing violence" would want to move to the kind of crime-ridden neighborhoods of inner-city Baltimore where Central American immigrants are settling. Baltimore had a higher per-capita murder rate last year than Guatemala City, Mexico City, Medellin, and many other cities around Latin America.

Chicago-area Reps. Luis Gutierrez and Bill Foster also frequently use the "fleeing violence" talking point despite their city's soaring homicide rate. I lived in Chicago three different times for a total of eight years, so I can attest to the fact that street crime and drug violence can be localized to specific parts of the city. But the irony is that recent immigrants tend to settle in these very tough neighborhoods — not just in Chicago, but in many other expensive big cities — because that's what they can afford. A few more points regarding the "fleeing violence" talking point we hear so often:

  • Any politician, like Cohen, who compares the danger posed by street crime and drug violence in Latin American countries to the threat faced by Jews in Europe during the Holocaust should be impeached, if not tarred and feathered.
  • Just as there are (relatively) safe places in high-crime cities like Chicago and Baltimore, the same applies to high-crime countries like Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Mexico. (Heck, I've interviewed travelers like Levison Woods, Kolja Spori, and Jeff Shea who think it's safe to visit places like Afghanistan, Somalia, and Iraq.) Legions of foreign tourists visit these countries every year. Take Guatemala, for example. In a page about safety in this country, USA Today advises "Travelers to the marvelous land of the Maya, which lives in its own sense of time, usually have a pleasant and very safe trip." The Moon Guide to Guatemala concludes that visitors have to come see "the mysteries of this magical land" for themselves. Not exactly a direct comparison to Auschwitz, is it?
  • The point here isn't to minimize street crime and drug violence in Latin America. Crime is obviously a devastating problem in many places. But attempts to leave Americans with the impression that if we don't let anyone and everyone from Central America live here that we're consigning them to certain death is preposterous. There are many, many dangerous cities all around the world — including some here in the United States, which has some cities with higher per capita murder rates than many places in Central America. Should everyone that lives in the crime-plagued south and west sides of Chicago, for example, have a right to move to say, Canada? Should the entire populations of crime-plagued cities like Johannesburg, Lagos, Caracas, Kingston, and Port au Prince be emptied out and brought to the United States and other safe countries?
  • If the level of violence in Latin American countries indeed justifies allowing citizens of these nations to break our laws to come here to find safety, why isn't anyone on the Left proposing to add these countries to the Visa Waiver Program? If the threat they're facing is so calamitous, shouldn't we allow everyone from these countries to come here legally? Why simply reward those who have broken our laws with a "safe" place to live? Don't we have a moral imperative to move the entire population of Central America here so they can all be safe?