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.
By Robert Scott
It is discouraging to consider how long the U.S. immigration system has remained broken, growing ever worse. I wrote about the Border Crisis over a year ago, and the situation has not changed very much.
Not too long ago, I wrote then, 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 again joining, as Republicans replace Democrats constituting anarrow majority in the House of Representatives. But what happened afterward, when Germany (whose population is almost exactly one fourth 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 be wary of. And indeed, there were some crimes committed by those new Germans, including 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 honest, hardworking, and deeply grateful to their new country for a newlease on life. The predictions of Islamic extremism and hatred did not, in fact, come to pass. At the time, Germany had been facingan 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 in Germany’s southernborder 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 “Crisis at the Southern Border” 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 continuing employment crisis, in which despite high inflation and a falling stock market, we still have the lowest unemployment rate in decades and have at the same time record numbers of unfilled jobs. For the second or third year of our working out from the pandemic shutdowns, there are “Help Wanted” signs across Edgefield County and everywhere else, from new factories being built to fast-food restaurants needing employees right now. The Federal Reserve is working to raise interest rates as part of averting still-higher inflation, but it does not appear to be considering the ill effects of higher unemployment, nor do they appear to be looking at the immigration crisis at all.
It is past time for our government to look at these crises together: waves of refugees seeking a new life and looking for work, employers urgently seeking employees, and inflation continuing to rise. It is also past time to stop the knee-jerk reactions and to remember that we have always been a nation of immigrants. Which crisis is the most important? The key to all of them is our immigration crisis. Germany solved theirssuccessfully, and not by closing their border; we can, too. We have to try, seriously, and soon.