Don’t like immigrants? Support immigration.

If you don’t like immigration, you should think about supporting our immigrant populations.

Created on 2019-07-25 02:54

Published on 2019-07-25 03:19

If you don’t like immigration, you should think about supporting our immigrant populations.

Why? Because immigration most often happens when a home county is dangerous, lacking opportunity, or simply has a hard time feeding itself. If you talk to immigrants, almost all of them will tell you how much they love their homeland and how they long to return. They’ll tell you why they decided to leave, who they left behind, and how much money they send home to their families. They often say their hope is to go back home, one day, and make it better.

Two Agronomists from the Ministry of Agriculture discuss coffee cultivation in a polyculture setting.

Home countries with heavy out-migration to the US and Europe have been changed by their countrymen/women who have made money in a foreign land, learned new skills and credentials, received proper health care, worked in a business enterprise and participated in democracy — often for the first time.

That money, those skills, and that experience of actively managing and improving a community are all critical to improving their own homeland. Savvy immigrants are the United States’ most valuable export. It’s how their homelands rebuild, heal, develop and stabilize — so they and their countrymen can remain there and thrive.

Imagine how bad conditions must be to make a person leave her home and extended family, taking on all the physical risk, psychological trauma, and financial cost to navigate thousands of miles through hostile territory to find a possible safe haven. This isn’t like moving from Providence to LA to make it big in pictures. Immigration means someone found they had nothing left to lose but terror and near-certain death.

Smallholder coffee farmers near Baptiste, Haiti. Photo: Singing Rooster Fair Trade Coffee

Many of these places that are losing their people were made bad or worse by US federal and corporate support for oppressive regimes and extractive economies. The US has made a lot of money while (ostensibly) protecting democracy, but with grave consequences. We are also dumping massive amounts of commodities into regions that can and should grow their own food. But how does smallholder farm compete in a market where raisins, cheese, wheat, soya and corn are given away free to its customers by los americanos at USAID? How does a struggling entrepreneur generate wealth, accumulate capital, build markets and support his community’s security when the local economy is disrupted, marauders roam at will, and private property is only private property until someone more powerful wants it?

Immigrants have always been critical to evangelizing American ideals. Once a person has seen how the rule of law protects every one equally, how property rights support capital investment, how banks hold and lend money honestly, how taxes collected by progressive governments build good roads, schools and hospitals, how democratic elections allow for spirited debate, and how people of all stripes can leaders and hold office, you can’t go back home without taking these ideas with you. (Yep, I realize that a lot of these *ideals* suffer in practice, but stay with me.)

I’ve been traveling to Haiti on and off since Baby Doc Duvalier dictatored via the Tan Tan Macoute goon squads, saw him washed away by (at the time, my friend) Jean Bertrand Aristide – and through all the subsequent regime changes and military interventions. It’s a tough place to make a living, especially from the bottom up. When I say “make a living”, I mean finding enough calories each day not to starve. Between hurricanes, flooding, earthquakes and drought. Talk about survivors.

Members of the coffee coop discussing supply planning and export demand.

A year ago, I made another trip to the high hills along the border to study coffee coops. I spent a few days in Port au Prince, sometimes walking the streets and talking with shopkeepers and the kids who offered to be my guide for the day. No one asked for anything; this was strictly business. No bouquet of open hands hoping for a handout waved at me from behind. I met up with my godson, Ketty Deuce, at the school where I once taught and where he teaches now. Of the hundreds of Haitian kids in the schoolyard, not one turned their head when I entered the schoolyard.

Agriculture is the people's way to develop Haiti.

In sharp contrast to its years of dependence on American, French and Canadian aid, this new Haiti and the new Haitian is determined to be…self-determined. All those decades of Haitian immigrants to Boston, Miami, Montreal, and the Dominican Republic remitted to their families not just billions of dollars of hard-earned currency but also treasure more valuable: the belief in the ability to live freely, build businesses, create financial security, hold governments accountable, and cooperate as a community. (Yep, these things have always existed in Haiti, and they have been catalyzed by the diaspora. In 1804, the democratic inclinations of the newly independent black Republic of Haiti sent panic through the landed aristocracy of the slave holding states of the American South.)

Chief Coffee Taster and Carribean Grand Master coffee grader at the Ministry of Agriculture, Institute du Cafe

If you think you don’t like immigration and immigrants (even though you are one, ahem), consider the role immigration plays in lessening the need for migration from areas plagued by insecurity. I talk to every Asian, African, Mexican and Latin American immigrant I come across. To a person, they deeply love the place, people and culture they come from. Of all the opportunity they hope to find here, bringing hope to their home is the greatest.

If you think you don’t like immigration and immigrants, help the immigrants you meet learn everything they can about your ideals. Help them earn fair wages for safe, honest work. What you teach them – what you show them about your hopes, your dreams, and your attitudes — they will share with their homeland. And what give them to take home will improve, or worsen, the circumstances there.

Is immigration good or bad? The answer is in your hands.

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