By Robert Scott
All writers in Op Ed are here to inform and acknowledge issues of importance to our communities, however these writings represent the views and opinions of the authors and not necessarily of The Advertiser.
It’s common to hear, stoked in particular by those wanting to change the political focus from the Trump administration’s scandals and the January 6th Insurrection, that there is a crisis on our southern border. In the last 12 months – 5 months under the Trump administration and now 7 months under Biden – there have been a record 1.7 million migrants handled by the Border Patrol and others, trying to enter the United States illegally. There are many reasons for that, including fleeing not only poverty and crime in their native countries but also fleeing the effects of COVID-19 at home. As poor as our own defenses have been against the pandemic, many western hemisphere countries have done even worse.
Not too long ago, the world’s biggest crisis regarding immigrants fleeing their native lands occurred in the eastern hemisphere: Syrian and other Muslim refugees overwhelming the borders of the European Union. Some were hoping to end up in America, as others from Europe had fled here a century ago; but most aspired to get to western European countries, especially Germany. Standing out among her peers in not pushing back but instead welcoming these refugees was Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel. “If Europe fails on the question of refugees,” she stated, “then it won’t be the Europe we wished for…. I don’t want to get into a competition in Europe of who can treat these people the worst.”
That appears to be the very competition our politicians are now engaging in, especially those whose north star is the defeated and twice-impeached President Trump. But what happened afterward, when Germany (whose population is almost exactly 25% of ours), welcomed one million non-European refugees into their country in one year? There were predictions of financial and sociological doom from those on the rightward end of Germany’s politics – a rightward end that the rest of Europe learned last century to beware of. And indeed, there were some crimes committed by those new Germans, including most famously a rash of violence in Cologne on New Year’s Eve, in which many German women were sexually assaulted. The perpetrators were punished, and the crime wave stopped. Most of the refugees were deeply grateful to their new country for a new lease on life. The predictions of Islamic extremism and hatred did not, in fact, come to pass. At the time, Germany had been facing an employment crisis as their population aged, with a smaller work force and an increasing number of retirees. The new immigrants were required to learn German and were intentionally dispersed across the country, not just inGermany’s southern border states. Before long, they filled those jobs that native Germans had left and rapidly became valued members of the population. The bottom line: Chancellor Merkel’s gamble in responding positively to their own “Border Crisis” worked.
Today in the United States, we have an immigration crisis that, viewed as a percentage, is smaller than that faced by Germany. Sharing headlines with the immigration crisis is the employment crisis, in which we have the lowest unemployment rate in decades but have at the same time record numbers of unfilled jobs. Even here in Edgefield County, there are “Help Wanted” signs everywhere, from new factories being built to fast-food restaurants needing employees right now.
It is time for our government to look at these two crises at the same time: refugees wanting to come here and seeking work, and employers across the country seeking employees. It is time to stop having knee-jerk reactions to the so-called “Border Crisis” and to remember that we are, and always have been, a nation of immigrants.Germany solved their immigration crisis successfully; we can, too.