How many are we willing to welcome?


To the Editor:

In the 2016 campaign, Donald Trump promised to build a “magnificent wall” that would put a definitive halt to the flow of illegal migrants over our southern border.

How ironic it is that an enraged and frustrated Trump now faces an unprecedented influx of families from Central America, coming here in such numbers that they overwhelm the facilities we have in place to cope with them?

Trump cannot block their entry because the U.S. is committed to a long-established policy of allowing people who claim to be refugees seeking asylum to come into our country and live here while awaiting a judicial hearing on their asylum claim. Since there are already many thousands on the waiting lists, it will be well over a year — even two or more years? — before someone who enters today will have a hearing.

Given this circumstance, it is obvious that a woman in Central America who is pregnant and has hopes of a better life for her child may give serious consideration to coming, if possible, to our border, and gaining entry as an asylum seeker. Her child, when born, will be a U.S. citizen.

And many women who become pregnant only after crossing the border will have time to have a U.S. citizen baby, even if a judicial hearing should ultimately deny a claim for asylum.

A couple of years ago, Angela Merkel announced that Germany would take in 1 million refugees from the Syrian civil war. What proportion of Germans welcomed her decision? Certainly there were large numbers who did not wish to bring in as many as a million settlers from the Middle East.

How many Central American asylum seekers are most Americans willing to bring in within, say, the next five years? One million? Two million? Three million? An unlimited number?

Despite Trump’s all-out hostility, large numbers of Central American families are now coming in. Suppose that the White House is taken over in January 2021 by a kind-hearted, humane Democrat — someone who has deep sympathy for the quite understandable desire of Central Americans to live out their lives in the U.S. rather than in the economic squalor, violence, and chaos of their native lands.

Under a friendly Democratic presidency, will the influx of asylum seekers rise beyond the current Trump level? Is it possible that the volume of migrants will swell so greatly that even some Democrats will eventually begin to feel uncomfortable?

R.E.L. Knight
West Tisbury


  1. Our migration numbers are well below historic levels and our economy is strengthened by immigrants, even those who cannot afford to obtain citizenship. Hostility toward immigration is rooted in xenophobia and racism. Unfortunately, those characteristics have deep roots in the american polity, and even most of the democrats are climbing all over each other to talk up strong borders.

  2. It’s quite possible that under a kinder democratic administration, we would help these countries out , rather than call them obscene names and cut off what little money we were giving them. Then people would not feel so compelled to leave their countries of birth.

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