Susan Hoffman: Welcome to today’s presentation, “Lies about Migrants: Immigration Policy in a Time of Post-Truth Politics.” I want to say a few words about Bev Crawford. She is the former director of Berkeley’s Center for European and German Studies, she’s a professor emerita of political science and international and area studies and she teaches courses on theories of international political economy, American foreign policy, feminist theories of international relations, and currently, ethnic and religious conflict, as well as global conflict and the refugee crisis.
Bev recently received a fellowship from the Turkish National Science Foundation to research the refugee crisis in Turkey. She has written an analysis of modern Germany’s approach to international relations, which is called “Power and German Foreign Policy: Embedded Hegemony in Europe.” She has written numerous policy papers, briefings, articles on the causes of cultural conflict in Europe, Greece, Bulgaria and the former Yugoslavia.
Bev has served as a principal investigator on the Global Economic Integration Liberalization and Ethnic Conflict. That’s a product that’s been funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts. She spoke on conflict and culture at the World Cultural Forum in Rio de Janeiro, and regularly consults with the U.S. government on the economic roots of ethnic and sectarian conflict. Oh, and it goes on, German and U.S. foreign policy, export control policy and law, corporate technology transfer issues in an international context, as well as she briefs the German politburo and the U.S. government on the European Union.
Beverly Crawford: German politburo?
Susan Hoffman: Oh, sorry. Yes, right.
Beverly Crawford: Just the German government.
Susan Hoffman: Yeah. Government. Professor Bev Crawford.
Beverly Crawford: Thank you, Susan.
Susan Hoffman: Thank you. Sorry about that.
Beverly Crawford: That’s okay. It sounds so communist. Thank you for having me. Does anyone see a lie on this slide?
Beverly Crawford: Okay. Those who said illegals are right. And why is that a lie?
Audience: Nobody’s illegal.
Beverly Crawford: Nobody’s illegal. Any other hands?
Audience: They’re not in our country yet, so they can’t be illegal.
Beverly Crawford: So, anyone who’s not in our country can’t be illegal? Can people in our country be illegal?
Audience: No, no.
Beverly Crawford: No. There’s a Supreme Court decision on that, that crossing a border is an illegal act. It has been made into a crime in the Trump administration, but it was a civil offense previously. And once one is here, one is not illegal, according to the Supreme Court. You commit an illegal offense.
So, illegals, this is a lie and it’s also a dehumanizing concept about human beings. That’s what I want to talk about today. Now, I was kind of introduced to this language a long time ago. I took a trip to the border in the ’90s. We took a bunch of Germans to the border in California, between California and Mexico, and the Germans wanted to see what our immigration policy was like. This was in the early ’90s. We had a great tour of border control agencies, and the Border Patrol. I was in a Border Patrol office, and the officer was showing me his wonderful equipment, his infrared camera, and he scanned out and saw across the border and said, “Look, an alien.”
I had never really heard that term before. I grew up in California, I grew up in the Central Valley. I worked with immigrants in the peaches when I was a kid, and when I was in high school. Alien wasn’t the word that we used. And I sort of thought, I was a sci-fi buff, and I thought this was green monsters coming to destroy planet Earth. It was jarring to me, and I never forgot it. The picture he showed me looked a lot like this, and this actually is … He said, “An alien is Mexico barbecuing on the beach. That’s an alien.” And I thought, “Barbecuing on the beach in Mexico? He lives there.” And this is a similar infrared picture of someone across the U.S. border who, this person is called an alien.
So, anything that’s foreign to us can be considered not one of us, not a human, in some ways, because an alien describes a non-human being of some kind. It’s a very, very common word to use in immigration language, and it still jars me, and it’s dehumanizing on maybe a subconscious level.
What I’m going to argue today is that, I’m going to argue about dehumanizing language and what it does, and how lies affect the immigration debate. But to get there, I want to talk about two problems with formulating immigration policy that leads to this dehumanization. The first is the absence of migrant rights, and the second is rival national identities, rival definitions of what it means to be, for us, for the United States, what it means to be an American for American citizens. But also, this happens in other countries.
What we have seen is the rise of the extreme right wing to dominate the narrative about immigration, both in the United States and in Europe, which is what I also study. What’s happened is, this extreme right, which dominates the narrative, has created a false narrative, and has turned to the weaponization of dehumanizing words and pictures to control the narrative, to control the narrative based on people’s fear and emotion, and the formulation of an exclusionist immigration policy. We don’t have a comprehensive immigration law now. Congress has not been able … Congress is gridlocked, and I will explain a little bit why.
I can’t discuss all of the reasons, but one of them is this kind of rival national identities in the immigration debate. The weaponized narratives are often false, and they empower the extremists. Why do people believe them? I want to go into some of the psychological reasons, if I can, and then talk about some remedies. That’s my talk for today, and I have to be very careful of the time so that we have time to ask questions and discuss anything.
So, I said there are two problems with formulating migration policy: rights and identity. The first one, migration policy turns upon a clash of rights. The clash has to do with universal human rights. We have a Universal Human Rights Declaration of 1948, all people are equal. All people deserve freedom. All people. All humans. Universal. And yet, there’s a clash of universal human rights with the rights of states to control their borders, and the rights of citizens within states, within countries. Those are based on universal human rights, but the difference is, they’re enforceable, and universal human rights are not enforceable. They’re non-enforced.
I want to just raise this, if rights aren’t enforced, do they really exist? And we can say, “Yes, they exist,” but if they’re not enforced, people can be treated as if their rights don’t exist. They can be treated extremely badly, and I will show you that. And no one is held accountable. Citizens have rights that are enforceable. We have due process, we have rights of nondiscrimination, we have all kinds of rights that are embodied in our Constitution as Americans.
Once a person steps outside their own borders, let’s say they’re fleeing persecution, or they’re fleeing poverty, or they’re fleeing environmental crisis or disaster, they are rightless, as if their rights don’t exist. The compromise, historically, between this rights of governments to control their borders and universal human rights to cross borders and have free mobility, is the right to seek and be granted asylum.
So, once you can seek, and this the United States has signed on, to the convention on refugee rights, and we agree to grant asylum to anyone fleeing death, persecution, violence. So, that asylum is refuge for those people, and it is a right. And once that person stands on the soil of the United States, they have the rights of asylum, and those are pretty good rights. They’re the rights of due process, there are a lot of rights. Not as many as citizens have, but a lot of rights. The problem is, you have to be standing on that soil, and strangely, the rights of governments to protect their borders often means that the act of crossing that border in order to stand on that soil is not allowed. It’s a crime, it’s an offense against the law.
So, the only way that you can be granted asylum is to stand on the soil of an asylum-granting country. I’ll go into this a little bit more, but just to underline that human rights are only guaranteed for citizens of a political community, citizens of the nation. I think that we take these rights for granted, and we probably should not take those rights for granted at all.
Migrants do have rights. Here’s a migrant rights poster. But they don’t really have rights. So now, because they don’t have rights, they can be dehumanized, they can be subject to dehumanizing language, because human rights are an identity that make us human. So, they can be called animals, or predators. I was on the border between Arizona and Mexico this summer talking to border control agents, talking to NGOs, talking to migrants. I worked in a shelter there. And I learned a lot of words that border control agents call migrants.
They call them “predators.” The president has called them “predators.” “Testosterone bombs,” they call them that. The president has called those coming from African countries and Haiti “shithole countries.” They’ve been called “garbage” in European Parliaments. The word “infestation” is used, as if they’re germs. Invasion, as if they’re some kind of invading species. Aliens. Less harmful, but still not very human. They’re called “waves” and “floods of immigrants.” These are not human categories.
I don’t want to be too picky here, because these are metaphors, but nonetheless, they’re not human. If the term that the media has used in terms of Jeff Sessions’ policy of taking children from their parents, instead of saying they were kidnapped from their parents, they are separated like calves are separated like cows. That is not the word that should describe what happened in that case. “Caravans” or “invading caravans.” The first time I heard the term caravan was from Donald Trump who was saying, “There’s an invading caravan coming up from Central America full of criminals, full of drug dealers, full of M13 gang members, and they’re headed towards us basically to invade us.”
So, the picture is this invading caravan. And interestingly enough, when human beings hear something enough, they associate the definition. It was hard for me to separate out what a caravan of immigrants really is, which is a lot of people fleeing for their lives, banding together for safety and protection, women and children and men, and boys and girls coming together for protection as they try to cross into safety.
It’s almost, even today, hard for me to think about that without thinking of my first impression that was given to me in the media by Donald Trump. So, the language of dehumanization, based on the fact that migrants do not have the right, they do not have enforceable human rights, this denies them dignity and compassion and empathy that we typically give people. Border guards talk about tonking aliens. Tonking means to hit them in the head with a flashlight. And they talk about that. This dehumanizing language can also relax any instinct of aversion to aggression and violence. And it’s the language of the day. I was shocked to learn that the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service, which is very important in the Department of Homeland Security, to ensure naturalization, and controls immigration, very big, has removed language on its website celebrating the United States as a nation of immigrants. That was in its mission statement since the beginning, and it’s now been removed. It also is a result of the gridlock that we have in Congress about immigration policy.
So, the White House has taken upon itself to make that immigration policy, and that’s basically what immigration policy is, is a series of executive orders and edicts. And often what it means is not just language, but it means kidnapping children, and it also means exclusion of immigrants from the community of what’s considered human beings, or community of citizens. So, any time you want to dehumanize people, you try to exclude them. The Germans, they put Jews in concentration camps, they weren’t all death camps, there were thousands of concentration camps just to exclude Jews from the community of Germans. Immigrants are absolutely excluded. You come to the border legally, you go through the port of entry, you request asylum, and you are immediately put into detention and you are excluded. And when you’re in detention, you have no rights of due process. You could be in detention indefinitely.
We have a policy now called Prevention Through Deterrence, which I found when I was in the Sonoran Desert that the wall is built far out from any the port of entry, and makes people go into the most dangerous part of the desert, which I’ll talk about. So, that the Border Patrol says, “If we can deter them from going there, then they won’t come.” It’s a cat-and-mouse game, and this conflict of rights creates that cat-and-mouse game.
So, how have we really come to this point? I think that, when migrants enter this arena of rightlessness, they’re easily deprived of their right to live. We’ve seen over 34,000 deaths of people trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea between 1994 and 2018. No one is held responsible for those 34,000 deaths. No one. And since 2014, over 24,000 displaced people … Just since 2014, 24,000 of that 34,000 have died. That’s in the last several years. When you go into the desolate and deadly terrain of the Sonoran Desert, what you see is the reason why 7,000 migrants have died trying to cross that desert between 1998 and 2017.
Women are raped and abused. No one knows the percentage, but I’m sure it’s a very large one. When property is stolen, no one is held responsible. No one’s held responsible for rape and abuse. The journey to find refuge, to find asylum, to escape poverty, to escape starvation, to escape dehumanization has thrown migrants outside the realm of humanity where their human dignity has been stripped away, without protection, without human rights, without others recognition of them as human beings and recognition of their human worth. And to be able to endure in that dangerous space, they have to come to the point of embracing their own worth as human beings, while those around them refuse to acknowledge it.
I don’t know how many of us have ever been in that situation. I have not, but I can imagine it from the many stories that I’ve heard. So, why do they take this perilous journey and put themselves in a situation of rightlessness? Why do they do that? They have to take this perilous journey, and I have put up these pictures here. This is what Turkey looked like in 2015 with all these life jackets. Here is a child’s drawing of what that child saw, of people drowning in the Mediterranean Sea. This is a sign that the Border Patrol puts up on the Sonoran Desert that says, “We are warning you, don’t go across the desert. It’s very dangerous. There’s rattlesnakes and cactus,” and believe me, the cactus I was stuck in, I had needles in my legs for a month. I don’t know how they do it, but basically, they’re saying, “Don’t do it.” And as I walked the Sonoran Desert, I saw these crosses of people who had died.
Why don’t they fly to safety? Why not? It’s so much cheaper. It costs so much to hire a smuggler, both across the Mediterranean and across the Sonoran Desert. You have to hire one if you go across the Sonoran desert. There’s no way the cartels control all the smugglers, the Mexican cartels, and you can’t get across without hiring a smuggler. It costs like, I don’t know, $300 to fly from, I don’t know, Guatemala City to Los Angeles. The reason is, that you have to have a visa to fly, and the government actually puts it upon the ticket agents to make sure that people have their visas before they fly. And there’s no refugee visa, there’s no asylum visa. There’s no way. There should be, because it’s law that they can come for refuge, but they have to be standing on the soil of the United States, and they can’t get here easily. They have to take this perilous, horrible journey. They have to be thrown into a situation of rightlessness. And inside our borders, the rights of migrants are arbitrary.
I have watched, in these last two years, the changing of asylum policy, the changing of immigration policy, the rights that migrants once had that they no longer have. That domestic violence was a cause to seek asylum and could be seen as a legitimate cause, no longer. Even gang violence, no longer. The number of judges has been reduced. The right to have an asylum hearing is difficult to get, because now there’s a wait in Mexico policy that’s totally against international law. So, because there aren’t enforceable rights for migrants, they depend on arbitrary things like compassion.
Now, I have a lot of compassion, and I try to go out and help, but I get tired, and then I take a day off, or I want to go to the movies. I can do that. That’s just arbitrary, when people are in need. So, the rights of migrants are arbitrary, and they have been circumscribed.
You know, Jose Antonio Vargas gives sort of a good definition of what he feels like. He says, “I’m an American, I just don’t have papers.” He feels, he has been a person who can say, “Yes, I have rights, I just don’t have papers.” Okay.
This is from Viet Thanh Nguyen, who says … You can read the whole thing, but it basically says, “You’re hoping to leave. You have to leave, you hope you make it across the border. Only when you get there do you understand that those who live on the other side do not see you as human at all.” And he experienced this. He’s the one who wrote The Sympathizer. It’s a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel about Vietnam.
Exclusion is another form of dehumanization, and what we’ve seen with this exclusion is, offshore processing of asylum claims, waiting zones in Mexico, offshoring detention centers in North Africa for European immigrants, and protracted confinement in refugee camps. All ways to exclude migrants, who have no rights, from the human community.
Now, the second problem in addition to the absence of rights is the three rival principles of national identity in the migration debate. These have long competed for dominance. There’s the liberal identity, one that says, “Give me your tired, your poor,” one that says human being should be free to move. Throughout the 19th Century, there was no such thing as a visa. People just came. They came to Ellis Island, they came to the Eastern Shore of the United States and they just got off the boat and they were here. That was for a long, long time, until around 1924. And this identity says rights are universal. We, as Americans, should pursue those rights, should pursue those rights, and we should emphasize, as a nation, universal values of liberty and equality. We’re the champion of the poor and the dispossessed, and a nation that draws its strength from pluralism and diversity. This is the whole liberal view that there’s no such thing as an illegal human being. That’s one way to look at it.
A second way is kind of a conservative identity. There’s a focus on common traditions, history, values of liberty and equality for citizens, for citizens. And there’s a worry within a conservative community that says, “You know, our values will be distorted and diffused and diluted by other values coming in.” So, this conservative view argues for a more restrictive policy than the liberal view, but not completely restrictive policy. It just says, “Let’s watch out. Let’s keep our traditions alive. Let’s make sure criminals don’t come in.” Liberals say that, too, actually. “No criminals, no gang members. We don’t want that.” But the extreme nativist identity, which I’ve depicted here with a picture of the Charleston “Jews will not replace us” march, says that America’s greatness is the result of its white and Christian origins. The erosion of those white Christian values spells doom for our national experiment. So, we should have one language, one religion, one ethnicity as the dominant markers of membership in our community.
And what’s interesting is that, in 1790 was the first discussion of citizenship in the United States, and Congress agreed, passed a law, that said that free white persons who have or shall migrate into the United States were eligible to become citizens. Only free white persons. So, the Irish came in. They were white. Unless they were really dark, but you know. And there was a lot of discrimination. They were Catholic, they weren’t Protestant. But they were eligible to become citizens. And then what we had was the 14th Amendment, which said freed slaves can become citizens, and that came into the immigration law. And by 1882, everybody could come except the Chinese, and Asians were excluded through World War II, with 1924, the Europeans can come, white Europeans can come to the United States. From Southern Europe, maybe a few depending on how light their skin is. But Asians, uh-uh (negative). No Asians. And then, World War II happened, and then we had the refugee law and the human rights declaration. And by 1952, all of those exclusions were gone.
By 1965, we had a new immigration law under Lyndon Johnson, which was super interesting to me. And I could go through this whole thing, but Lyndon Johnson said, “The previous immigration system with these quotas of people from different races and nationalities, that immigration system is un-American.” And he said the new law is going to correct the cruel and enduring wrong and the conduct of the American nation. So, what we’ve seen is, we went from 1790 to this extreme nativist identity up to a liberal identity, and immigration law has pretty much gone to the middle, with Clinton and with George Bush, to incorporate conservative views, and not white nationalist views. And taking away the white nationalists views. The problem is, those views have come back. They’ve come back and they dominate the narrative.
Okay. So, what we get is marches in the streets instead of Congress making laws. “Send the illegals back” versus “No human being is illegal.” We’ve had a polarization where the conservatives have dissipated, gone either to the white nationalists or become more and more liberal. We get this kind of problem, and then we get immigration policy by signs. Here’s one, “Boycott Mexico. Respect our country and speak English. Make English America’s official language,” versus, “Parents united for bilingual education.” We get people demonstrating against the Muslim ban of Trump, and Trump’s Muslim ban saying, “We’re laying down the law. America is safe again.” So, excluding Muslims, this sort of policy of exclusion versus a policy of inclusion, the kind of liberal versus the more extreme. Here’s a German one, “Muslims are welcome,” versus, “The fact is,” this is in German, “Islam, no matter what kind of Islam you have, is not German and doesn’t belong to Germany.” Germany has this also this kind of white identity issue.
We see this in Germany. We see these kind of dehumanizing posters. “All immigrants are terrorists.” Here it says, “Daily in Germany, there’s 43 victims of sexual assault. Refugees have committed 43. Daily, they commit 43 acts of sexual assault.” Not true. Here’s a terrible one from the U.S. Here’s a meme from the U.S., “Invasion 2019. Free house, medical, food stamps.” All misleading, if not untrue. So, we have this problem. And what we have here is that, we have this difference between what people believe and what is actually fact. Look at here. In the United States, people in general think that there’s 35% of the population who are immigrants, and actually, there’s 13%. Britain, similar. Germany, similar. All of these countries, people believe there are many more immigrants than there really are, probably because they’re brown and they’re black. People believe that the average immigrant gets twice as much government aid as natives do. It’s not true in any of these countries, but look, 35% of Americans do believe that. They believe that immigrants commit violent crimes. They commit, per capita, fewer violent crimes than native populations. They believe that immigrants take jobs. Here, I just have this from Germany, that the unemployment rate has gone down, and gone down much more for white Germans than for people with an immigrant background.
So, what’s going on here? This is a meme that spread very widely. And I won’t go through it, but nothing in this meme is true. And notice, every one of these are more than 43% of all food stamps are given to illegals. Not true. 95% of warrants for murder in Los Angeles for illegals. Not true. This is a little bit. 4% of undocumented people are picking crops, but 0.3% are on welfare. We can go through all of this, and I could go through all of this for you. None of this is true, and yet, people are believing it. So, why do they believe it?
Well, the political dominance of the extremist narrative is one reason, but psychologists have talked a lot about factors that are common to human psychology, but in particular, these extremist groups, where they talk about hot cognition, where reason does not dominate thought. Only emotion dominates thought. And tribal epistemology, in which they talk about how, if you are a member of an extremist group and an ethnically defined group, like a white extremist party, or we respond to white dog whistles from above, from political powers, then what you believe is what the leader tells you to believe, or what your group wants you to believe. Those beliefs turn into hardened opinions, and hardened opinions, then, lead to confirmation basis. We all are subject to confirmation bias. I was talking to my husband this morning. I said, “Listen, if I wanted Marianne Williamson to be president, I really couldn’t talk about that in my social group, because they would laugh at me.” So, I don’t talk about that. And that’s not my view, but I’m just saying, we all self-censure ourselves, because we want to be accepted by our group.
But in these extremist communities, there’s much more social sharing and much more desire to be accepted by the group. And if they’re confronted with facts, they double down and say, “No, the facts are wrong. The media’s the enemy of the people. Scientists are stupid.” There’s that whole narrative that says factual discussions are hoaxes. They also believe that stoked conflict strengthens their community. This website here is a paper I wrote on that, which, if you’re interested, is a much, much longer discussion. Also, the medium is the message here. We have Facebook. There’s always been disinformation, always. However, historically, it’s often come from a single source, the government propaganda source, or politicians who tell lies about each other. I was reading even in the United States, they tell lies about each other in order to get votes. That’s not unusual. But what we have now are these unconnected sources, including Russia, China, Iran, whoever, and it’s spread through social media or entertainment that brings about a kind of dehumanizing view of immigrants. And truth and falsehood are very difficult to separate in many ways. And then, the extreme right has trolls and bots that swarm, what they call swarm, any narrative that’s not their narrative.
Algorithms. YouTube has algorithms that sends people to more and more sensationalist sites. In Germany, there was a riot in Kemnitz of people against immigrants. And a video came out that made it look like the immigrants were rioting, and they weren’t. But that video spread way farther than other video. And what we then have is, you get these false narratives, they go through the troll farms, they’re Tweeted. The mainstream media tries to keep up and sends its journalists to Twitter, where they’re getting their information on Twitter, and people are digesting more and more lies, and we get degraded information, because these lies are repeated and they saturate and they overwhelm. And now, they’re in the dominance. And these are lies about migrants that aren’t right.
So, this is what it looks like. We all end up in our information bubbles then, and the darker the color, the more extreme. And what you see here, this is a Columbia Journalism study, is that these people in the red don’t speak to these people in the kind of gray and blue. Green is supposed to be neutral. They’re a smaller group, but a more intense group. And the liberal group is more spread out. It’s very difficult to make a reasoned argument against an intolerant argument. It’s really difficult to be tolerant in the face of intolerance. And this is what’s going on here. These are isolated bubbles that we have pervasive digital sharing, and a very influential article in science showed that a sensationalist piece of disinformation, a lie, will spread way faster than a factual piece of information. So, we’re not talking to each other, and the rhetoric of exclusion has caused, possibly, there’s no smoking gun on this, I don’t think, but possibly, more attacks on migrants in Germany. There was a big study done on what was the rhetoric, and how many attacks? And for every four Facebook posts, there was an attack. In communities where there were no Facebook posts, there were no attacks.
But I just bring this up to say, I think there’s a connection. We haven’t been able to actually prove it. Do we have any remedies for this? These are kind of liberal remedies. This is my most important one: Create and maintain contact with migrants, because once you do that, you will see that they are human. It’ll be very difficult to create a false narrative about them, a dehumanizing narrative. When we deal with other people, if we lie … We saw on the debates last night, everybody wants to go across the aisle and talk to their opponents, and all that kind of stuff. Well, how do you do that? You can avoid debunking false information. You can debunk it, but don’t do it without creating a new narrative. Work with those you disagree with. Don’t step on anyone’s identities when you criticize their positions on migration. Don’t say, “You’re an extreme right wing creep.” And you sort of tap your own personal experiences to get the facts to stick. So, have some experiences. And thank you for listening to me. I hope this didn’t go way too fast.
So, now I would like you to make comments or ask questions. We have a few minutes. No comments? Oh, I can’t see. I’m blind as a bat here. Let me see. Maybe, if you don’t mind standing up, or just speaking loud would be fine.
Audience: How can we deny our immigrant ancestry?
Beverly Crawford: Okay, so the question is, how can we possibly deny our immigrant ancestry? And in 1790, nobody was not an immigrant at that time, so nobody denied their immigrant ancestry, but most of that ancestry has been white, and white was okay. White people could come in. Asians were excluded. Now, brown and black people are excluded. I didn’t tell you that, after 1924, when Asians were excluded, when everybody from Asia was excluded — Japan, Thailand, and China — they started coming up through the Mexican border. And only Asians were coming up, illegally crossing the border. That was when the Border Patrol was created. So, we don’t deny our white identity, our white immigrant identity, and people of color can’t really deny their identity, because that’s who they are. Good question.
Audience: You started off with a good point that, if rights are not enforced, they don’t exist. You talked about the migrants’ rights not being enforced, and therefore do not exist. But you criticize the government’s enforcement of its rights to patrol its borders. I don’t suppose you’re saying that the government has no right to enforce its borders, but if you are criticizing it, what should it do with all these migrants from all over the world, not just the Southern border, wanting to come here?
Beverly Crawford: It’s a good question, and it’s a totally legitimate question. I will never say that states don’t have rights to enforce their own borders. Countries have to enforce. You can’t even have a democracy if you say, “Okay, I’m not going to enforce anything. Our laws and our borders are open.” How are you going to enforce something across the whole entire world? So, we’re lucky to have a democracy that we can enforce our laws within our borders. That’s true. That’s why I said it’s a conflict of rights. It’s not that universal human rights trump government’s rights of the rights of citizens, it’s not that at all. But it’s a conflict in our hearts, I think. It’s a conflict in liberal hearts. It’s a conflict in everyone’s hearts who believes in universal human rights. It’s easier to say, “Let’s control our borders.”
Now, the second part of your question was, how do we keep these thousands of people from coming in? This is an issue, and I will just say what my view is. I can’t say that my view is absolutely correct, but the United States can accommodate all of these people who are coming in. Everybody who comes in has a relative, just about everybody. The kids have numbers written on their wrists of a relative that they want to call the minute they step their feet on American soil. What the problem is, that at the border, there is not enough personnel to process these people. That personnel has been decreased, especially in terms of asylum officers and judges. There’s metering at the border. The poor kid who drowned in the Rio Grande with his little toddler that we saw a terrible picture of. He wanted to come in legally. He even had a visa from Mexico, that humanitarian visa, and he was asked to wait in Mexico for months and months, and he said, “Forget it. I’m swimming.” He was 23 years old. “I’m going across illegally, because I can’t get in legally.” Many, many hundreds and thousands of people come because they can’t get in legally, but they know that they can claim asylum when they step on American soil.
They might not get asylum and they are deported, but they can claim asylum. We’re going to Guatemala this week to see what’s going on down there. I want to go to some shelters in Mexico, because many people are fleeing extreme poverty and climate change, and they are starving. That’s not what it’s in the refugee law, but they’ve got to go. So, what I’m saying is, we can take those people. We can. They can be here, they just can’t get here, so there’s kind of a manufactured crisis at the border, I believe. I think any president would have a problem, because so many have been coming in the last year. Now, it’s with many, many restrictions, and it’s slowed down. But I don’t think we can’t accommodate them. I think it’s a false narrative that we can’t. That’s what I think.
Audience: Yeah, you’ve described what I would describe as a rather dehumanizing attitude or culture amongst the Border Patrol. In your experience, has this gotten worse since Trump was elected?
Beverly Crawford: I don’t know. I never talked to Border Patrol agents, except for last May when I was down there. But I want to say that there are many, many Border Patrol agents who are not dehumanizing migrants. This is not across the board. It is a culture that has been plagued by corruption for many years, and many Border Patrol agents have been arrested. Sometimes, it was one arrest a day. And it’s a huge organization. Huge. It’s bigger that the whole New York City police force. It’s big, and it has had a corrupt culture. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t some really upstanding border control agents who rescue people, who save lives.
Audience: You had a slide up with the different sources of information, and you said the ones in green were the neutral sources. I couldn’t read any of the names. Could you name a couple of those?
Beverly Crawford: I do kind of know what some of these are. I think the The Hill is considered neutral. Where is that? That’s somewhere. Reuters is consider more neutral. The New York Times is light blue, but not dark blue. Then, there are the Huffington Post, which is considered much more liberal. Let’s see what else I can read. I think the Wall Street Journal is sort of in the light red category, but these greens are neutral, but look how small they are. Whereas, Breitbart, according to the research, and this is very well respected research, Breitbart becomes the hub and people retweet a lot of Breitbart news. And then, they can retweet their own news, too. Here’s FOX News, over here. So yeah. I’m sorry about this. Even if I make it really small, I can’t read it. It’s not a good … I just put it in there to show that this is deeper red and this is not deep blue here. The liberal media is sort of more diverse.
Audience: What, in your estimation, of these growing problems over immigration is based just on the political push of the conservative side to make this an issue to solidify their hardcore base?
Beverly Crawford: Well, that’s an interesting question. My reading of this situation is that the hardcore base has been stimulated with messages of hate and fear that aren’t true. So, you get the term illegals, or other worse terms. And that anti-immigrant sentiment has come and gone in the United States. It’s flourished. It was the 1920s, everyone hated Asians. And then, we had to go through World War II, and the United States says, “Hey, we need people, we need the Japanese as allies.” The Japanese were excluded in the early 20th Century. And after World War II, we needed these allies. And actually, even today, the largest number of immigrants into the United States comes from China. The largest number of legal immigrants. So, I can’t really answer that question, but I believe that there are always seeds of hatred for the other, and they can either be cultivated, and grow and become more hatred, or they can land on dry soil. I think that’s my answer. But it’s not scientifically provable.
Audience: Yes. You’ve had a lot of experience, clearly, in Germany, and Germany did take a very large number of immigrants. Are there any positive conclusions that we can take from the German experience that they can be models of alternative ways of dealing with this problem?
Beverly Crawford: Absolutely. Germany needs labor. And almost immediately, immigrants can go through the asylum system. They ask for asylum, and they’re immediately given a stipend, a place to live, tickets for the subway so they can get around. They’re not detained in Germany. And they have to take German, and they have to pass their German classes in order to go on to get jobs. Then, they’re put into apprenticeships and there’s a very, very positive experience with the immigrants themselves. I’ve actually written an article on this, that I could point you to, comparing the two immigration systems, but the political impact and the way the extreme right has used immigration to fan the flames of hatred and fear has put that party into third place in the German government. So politically, there has to be more restriction. There have been more restrictions. This is a story that continues to play itself out. Good question. Thank you. Thanks very much.