We like the idea that people come to this country because they value what our society stands for. The world at large sees America as a beacon of light, and the reason so many flock to our borders is exactly because we offer something most of the rest of the world does not: freedom. This is completely understandable, as our founding fathers fled oppression from their own government to start a new life here, and we sympathize with those who want to flee their own oppression to begin anew in a place where they are free to make their own way.
The unfortunate truth, however, is that we can’t take every person who wants to come here. It isn’t even just about whether or not they are criminals or would be meaningful contributors to our economy or society. There are just too many people in the world to allow everyone who wants to come here free access to our resources. America is a huge country, but even we have limits to the amount of people we can directly support, and we have to be extremely careful about balancing our desire to give freedom to others with our need to maintain a healthy population balance here at home.
One of my favorite arguments against the more liberal idea of immigration in our country uses gumballs as a visual aid to describe the problem. The number one reason that most people want to come to the United States is because they live in poverty and are hoping to find a way out of that. Unfortunately, the truth is that virtually all of the people who really need help will never have an opportunity to get out of the situation they are in. The people who come here are at least modestly wealthy in comparison to their countrymen, and those are the people with the least need to move. At least when it comes to economics.
It sounds like such a good thing to welcome people from other nations into our borders because we think we’re helping them escape a bad situation in their home country. In many cases, this is the truth. There are several areas of the world where violence and oppression reign and the only way to escape it is to move to a country where this isn’t the case. But the vast majority of people coming here are doing so for financial prosperity; the hope that they can elevate their status by coming to America and making more money.
The problem with this is that America only has so much to go around. We struggle simply with taking care of our own population, so it is incomprehensible that we somehow think that we can take care of the world’s population as well. When immigrants come into our country, what we have available to use as citizens must be further divided amongst those who have been added to our numbers. As more people come in, less and less is available to each individual. We can see the eventual result of this process.
As harsh as it sounds, the solution is to severely limit the number of people we allow into our country and start focusing on helping people around the world where they are. We will never be able to allow enough people into our country to make a serious dent in things like world poverty or escape from oppression. Rather than trying to take in the entire world, we should be actively working to help those less fortunate than us abroad, taking the money we spend on so many other useless things we do and reallocating it to investing in other parts of the world. This will not only begin raising these parts of the world out of poverty and violence, but also increase our own wealth over time as these parts of the world begin contributing to the world economy.
Many times, the best solution is the one that sounds the harshest and the hardest to do. People today don’t like to hear the phrase “tough love” anymore, but most of the time that is the best way to handle a situation. As the saying goes, “you can give a man a fish and he eats for a day; teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime”. At some point we need to stop feeding people and start teaching them to fish. Only then will we truly start making a real difference in the world.
What do you think of immigration and poverty? Does allowing people to come to America make a difference, or is there a better way? What can we do to bring people up out of their terrible situations and make their lives better? Most of the time we want to go after the low hanging fruit, but the right way is usually the harder one. We truly can make a positive difference in the world, but we have to balance our compassion against rational thought and make better decisions.
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