Immigration has been a touchstone of United States political debates for decades, and several cities claim to be at a “breaking point” as they struggle to absorb and support arrived migrants. But is there really a border crisis? And why are cities like New York unable to cope with the influx of migrants when their numbers are not unusual by historic standards? Have the Biden administration’s changes in asylum laws made a difference? Is there a “solution” to the migration “problem”? Avi Chomsky addresses these questions in an exclusive interview for Truthout.
Avi Chomsky is professor of history and coordinator of the Latin American studies program at Salem State University. She is the author of many books, including Is Science Enough? Forty Critical Questions About Climate Justice (2022); Central America’s Forgotten History: Revolution, Violence, and the Roots of Migration (2021); “They Take Our Jobs!”: And 20 Other Myths about Immigration (2007); and Undocumented: How Immigration Became Illegal (2014).
C.J. Polychroniou: The influx of migrants at the southern border has sparked renewed attention lately, and the immigration debate is raging once again. In fact, anti-immigrant rhetoric has escalated after Donald Trump said in a recent interview that undocumented people were “poisoning the blood of our country,” while a MAGA radio host even called for the shooting of charity workers helping migrants. First, is there an actual migration crisis at the U.S. southern border? Most people seem to think that the U.S. does have a border crisis, though there doesn’t seem to be a political consensus on how to deal with the rising flow of migrants. What’s your own take on this matter, and why is it that the number of international migrants keeps increasing over the years?
Avi Chomsky: I don’t actually agree that there is a “border crisis.” There are multiple crises, both inside the U.S. and outside, and sometimes they become most visible to the media and the U.S. public on the border — but the border is only one node of the crises.
The real crisis is what’s happening in countries like Haiti, Guatemala, Venezuela, and other places where long histories of colonial exploitation, inequality, and violence are exacerbated by neoliberal economic policies, militarization, new forms of extractivism and displacement, debt and climate change, and pushing people from their homes and into migration. Most people who leave their homes to undertake a dangerous journey in hopes of reaching the U.S. are not exactly voluntary migrants — they are forced out of their homes by desperation.
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