Let’s make the US the most welcoming country on Earth – and bring order and humanity to a dysfunctional system
Florida governor Ron DeSantis’s cruel scheme to lure and transport vulnerable asylum seekers from the south to Massachusetts marks a new low in the immigration culture wars. The refugee crisis in our hemisphere demands bold and humane solutions, but the policy debate is frozen by the politics of fear and racism. Republicans grandstand about the issue for political advantage, while many Democrats would prefer to change the subject.
We propose a “Statue of Liberty Plan” for the 21st century that would set a goal for the US to become the most welcoming country on Earth for migrants and refugees and bring order and humanity to a dysfunctional system. The antidote to the venomous nativism that poisons our politics is to embrace immigration as a pillar of civic and economic renewal.
Expanded migration is necessary to fix a broken system that invites demagoguery. There are few accessible legal pathways for prospective immigrants. People who seek to come to the US wait in lines that extend for years or decades, or have no migration pathway at all. With no other options, migrants trek thousands of miles, risking death to seek asylum.
Under US and international law, people arriving in the US claiming persecution must have their cases heard; vulnerable migrants would be better off if they could seek refuge without having to undertake hazardous journeys across continents. The public would not be inflamed by scenes of disorder, and nativist politicians wouldn’t be able to use vulnerable people as political props.
Contrary to our national myth of being a welcoming nation, the US currently lags well behind Australia, Canada and other countries in the share of its population that are immigrants. Under our proposal, the US would admit 75 million immigrants over the next decade, which would double the foreign-born population from 15% to over 30%, giving it the largest share of any developed nation. Admitting 7.5 million people a year would be a dramatic increase compared with recent history – in the Obama years, the US admitted 1 million immigrants a year, and that number shrank dramatically under Trump.