Friday, February 18, 2011

Capitalism and Immigration

Numbers USA is one of the less rabid anti-immigration groups, not angrily nationalist, but focused on liberal myths that seek to justify skirting the illegality of mass undocumented immigration. A debunking of this evasion is perfectly justified. One valid point they make is that mass illegal immigration into the U.S. does not, and in fact cannot, alleviate world poverty, as some liberals are prone to claim, and that the real heroes are not those who flee poverty in their home countries, but those who successfully rise above it (the second claim is questionable). Unfortunately, Numbers USA doesn't seem to realize that an individualist solution to poverty is no solution at all, since only a tiny minority are in a position to escape it. In short, Numbers USA's apolitical assumptions leave them with no proper diagnosis of a problem that kills tens of thousands of people every week, still less with any intelligent solution to it.

A rational approach has no reason not to concede that importing one million or two million or even five million immigrants annually into the U.S. will do nothing to end world poverty, though it does alleviate financial distress for many individual families. Obviously, poverty cannot be reduced, much less eliminated, without identifying and rooting out the international structures of impoverishment that sustain intergenerational poverty for billions of people. This, in turn, means that, absent a restructuring of economic relations, illegal immigration flows can only continue, in spite of intense militarization efforts at the U.S.-Mexican border and other forceful measures.

Numbers USA is oblivious to such insights. Its overall take on immigration is politically naive, if not completely apolitical, and therefore cannot lead to constructive solutions. Telling desperate people that they should remain in their countries of origin, where capital has guaranteed that they will slowly starve to death, or fall prey to criminal gangs or government and "private" death squads, is obviously not a constructive suggestion. Unfortunately, the folks at Numbers USA don't even know that capitalism is at the root of the poverty problem.

The only lasting solution to poverty is to abolish capitalism and replace it with a democratic system of allocation and investment that will respond not just to purchasing power, but to voting power. The poor don't have any purchasing power (that's what it means to be poor), so they cannot make a capitalist system respond to their chronically unmet needs. But if economics were no longer treated as though it were somehow unrelated to politics, the poor could make their investment priorities respected at the ballot box. It's pretty obvious they would vote for the only policies that offer them a chance at a decent life: jobs at living wages, environmental clean-up, sustainable development, stable retirement, medical care for all, and so on. If that kind of system prevailed everywhere, the pressure to emigrate would dramatically decline.

But don't expect the folks at Numbers USA to endorse a radically anti-capitalist agenda, no matter how desperately it may be needed. They want to continue with minority control of social investment, and somehow end up with prosperity for everyone.

It can't happen.

See also "Race and Immigration" posted on this blog on October 25, 2010, as well as "Arizona, 'Nazism,' and Immigration Mythology" (May 3, 2010), and "Immigration and Illegality - A Nationalist-Internationalist Exchange," (April 27, 2008)

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