Blog post

Republicans have a special obligation to Venezuelan migrants

The idea of ​​tackling the “root causes” of migration and asylum flows is the kind of lofty notion likely to be dismissed by politicians such as Greg Abbott and Ron DeSantis, who brag about doing something about the immigrants showing up at the US-Mexico border while other officials just talk. Still, an examination of why so many Venezuelans are seeking asylum shows that there are some fairly obvious steps the United States could take that would reduce the incentives to make the perilous journey.

Spoiler alert: these steps do not include loading migrants onto buses or planes and sending them to blue states.

Venezuela is subject to fairly crippling economic sanctions first imposed under President Donald Trump and continued by Joe Biden. Sanctions aren’t the only cause of Venezuela’s economic misery, but they’re contributing to it — in fact, that’s the whole point. If the United States lifted the sanctions, the economic situation in Venezuela would improve and fewer people could come.

If the United States does not want to lift the sanctions, it has an obligation to do something for the people who are fleeing.

This does not necessarily mean giving them permission to live and work in the United States. After all, getting from there to here requires crossing a number of countries first, with Colombia neighboring Venezuela being the first stop. Republicans who think the arrival of Venezuelans at the border is an intolerable burden should consider how much more difficult the situation is for the authorities in Bogota, who face a much larger flow of people and have fewer resources. . Where is the legislation awarding a multi-billion dollar aid package to Colombia to resettle Venezuelan refugees instead of heading north to the United States?

The answer, of course, is that such legislation does not exist.

And that’s what annoys the recent stunts of Abbott, Texas, and especially DeSantis, Florida. Their goal is to confuse Democratic Party politicians by dumping asylum seekers in their states with deliberately minimal preparation.

As a midterm election stunt, that’s a great thing. The poll shows very clearly that the public does not approve of Biden’s handling of immigration, but trusts Democrats far more than Republicans on the issue of abortion rights. Republicans will therefore do everything they can to increase the importance of immigration and reduce that of abortion. (Even I, who write a column complaining about the cynicism of this scheme, are playing their game! It really is a very good political scheme.)

But they claim to do something more than a stunt. They say they’re trying to draw attention to the border situation and get Biden to do something about it. The problem is that they never say exactly what.

During Barack Obama’s time as president, he attempted a significant diplomatic overture with Cuba, including easing the long-standing US embargo on that country. Towards the end of his term, he followed up on this overture by rescinding the exceptionally generous treatment people fleeing Cuba used to receive from the US government.

Agree or not with him, Obama was pursuing a cohesive effort to belatedly end the Latin American Cold War. But Obama never got bipartisan buy-in to that idea, and under Trump the US reversed course – sanctioning Cuba again, sanctioning Venezuela and sanctioning Nicaragua.

Trump toppling Obama on trade while keeping his immigration restrictions in place threw the United States into confusion that Biden continued. If the United States wants to return to the old approach of trying to crush left-wing regimes economically, then it is forced to care about the well-being of those fleeing those regimes. In particular, Republicans — who are most vocal in favor of sanctions and most alarmed by irregular flows of migrants — have an obligation to figure out what they want to do.

Housing migrants elsewhere in Latin America is probably feasible and has some advantages in terms of transportation logistics and language compatibility. But if that is the plan, the United States should provide real financial resources to help.

Alternatively, a welcoming approach — even if limited to those particular groups of migrants over whom Republicans have traditionally expressed concern — could be a big win for the United States. Cuban-American South Florida is a huge cultural and economic success story. Currently, Florida is one of 18 states that has an unemployment rate below 3%. The Federal Reserve raises interest rates in an effort to close the gap between the number of vacancies and the number of unemployed.

An alternative would be to fill at least some of the vacancies with people fleeing countries where – thanks in part to US policy – ​​there are no jobs. It could even include ferrying migrants out of El Paso and other border towns to blue towns with pro-immigrant policies and a need for more workers. But the goal should be to create a well-organized system for connecting people to work, not to try to maximize the downside in order to grab headlines.

More broadly, Republicans are right that Americans deserve secure borders. In this context, revisions to asylum law to discourage uncontrolled flows of people into the Western Hemisphere should definitely be on the table.

But they must also recognize the interconnection of different policy areas. If the national economy is overheating, immigrants can help. If the United States wants to punish Venezuela with sanctions, it has an obligation to do something for Venezuelans fleeing despair. And accommodating more in a well-organized way is probably the best, most efficient option.

More from Bloomberg Opinion:

• Republican stunts on migrants highlight policy failure: editors

• When immigration hypocrisy landed on Martha’s Vineyard: Tyler Cowen

• Texas and Florida refuel Belarus on migrants: Andreas Kluth

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Editorial Board or of Bloomberg LP and its owners.

Matthew Yglesias is a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion. Co-founder and former columnist of Vox, he writes the Slow Boring blog and newsletter. He is the author, most recently, of “One Billion Americans”.

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