Excellent article and reminder on what the US can learn from Brexit: immigration will continue to overwhelm western borders and economies unless and until we look at how to help improve living conditions in the nations people are fleeing. Hint: the west has caused a lot of the current imbalances through destructive environmental and foreign policies. The most effective antidote is to arrest the environmental strain we are causing while investing in access to education and clean water in the countries people are fleeing, so they don’t have to leave home. See Brexit is a symptom of globalization’s deeper ills:
The rich countries really do need border controls. The potential flow of migrants in search of peace, jobs, and generous social benefits will otherwise be overwhelming. Yet the pressures on migration will be unstoppable unless the source regions are themselves peaceful and economically viable. The United States should ask itself why its near-neighborhood is so violent, war torn, poor, and financially strapped (including the recent bankruptcy of Puerto Rico). And then it should look in the mirror, heaven forbid, to remember how US policies have contributed to these awful outcomes.
The United States has been the magnet for narcotics trafficking; the overwhelming supplier of small arms throughout Central America and the Caribbean; the hub of regional organized crime; the author of countless CIA-led coups against democratic governments (too many to list here), often to protect US corporate interests; and the leading contributor to human-induced climate change that now creates environmental refugees. Through it all, the US political elite has been generally uncaring of the consequences.
Europe’s circumstances are trickier. Europe faces immigration pressures from Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. According to the UN basic forecast, Africa’s population will soar from 228 million in 1950 and 1.19 billion in 2015 to an astounding 4.39 billion in 2100, compared with 646 million in all of Europe in 2100 (including Russia and Ukraine). These demographic pressures are gravely exacerbated by wars, mainly US-led, in the Middle East and Africa, putting millions of displaced people on the move, with many crossing the Mediterranean into Europe.
Yet here, too, there are practical solutions. Africa’s astounding demographic surge, for example, would be decisively eased by a simple, humane, decent, and wise policy to ensure that every African child has the realistic prospect of at least a secondary-school education. The result would be a dramatic voluntary reduction of the sky-high fertility rate. Yet funding expanded access to education in poor countries requires that the US and Europe shift funds from wars and armaments to girls’ education.