Thousands of illegal migrants, many from war-torn countries such as Afghanistan, Syria and Sudan, have been camped out at Calais, a port city in France. Their goal is to jump on a truck or a train, which will take them to the UK through the Eurotunnel. In the last 48 hours, 3,500 hundred illegal migrants stormed the entrance of the tunnel, trying to get into the UK. So far this year, at least 37,000 illegal migrants made similar attempts. Many vowed to keep trying until they make it to the UK. French police are overwhelmed. Nigel Farage, leader of the UK Independence Party, indicated that the Eurotunnel might be forced to temporarily close if this situation continues.
Across the pond, we Americans cannot pretend that the crisis in Calais has no implications here at home. We have over 11 million illegal immigrants inside our country and more are on the way. Our own border is being violated on a daily basis too. The lessons from the Calais Migrant crisis are worth heeding, because they may help us identify better solutions to our own immigration issues.
The first lesson is that it takes more than barbed wire fences and walls to secure a nation’s border. In Calais, barbwire and walls around the Eurotunnel are ineffective under the daily onslaught of thousands of people. In Calais, migrants used power tools to cut holes in the barbed wire fence or scaled the fence using blankets as protection. Keep in mind that these migrants come from desperate situations and they have already made a very dangerous and treacherous journey to get here. They have nothing to lose, so they are willing to try anything. Similar situations happen at our border too. We cannot build walls high enough and long enough to stop illegal immigrants from crossing.
It will take immense manpower to discourage illegal border crossings. But we can’t rely on local police alone. As is shown in Calais, local police have limited manpower and they can easily be overwhelmed by a daily influx of determined illegal migrants. In 2014, former Texas Governor Rick Perry deployed the National Guard to the U.S. and Mexico border. Consequently the number of border crossings declined. Going forward, more cooperation among local police, border patrols and the National Guard are necessary to protect our border effectively and enforce immigration law.
The second lesson from the Calais crisis is that generous welfare and easily obtained amnesty will turn a country into a magnet for illegal migrants. Most illegal migrants who make it to UK successfully simply self-declare as a refugee and ask for asylum. In return, they will receive benefits such as free housing and cash support. The UK experience only reinforces what we already know: welfare and amnesty rewards lawless behavior and when lawless behavior goes unchecked, it simply will bring more lawlessness. Here in the U.S., illegal immigrants will continue to come as long as we have executive amnesty orders, sanctuary cities, or laws granting them access to welfare and even offering in-state college tuition.
The third and the most important lesson is that isolationism won’t make us safe. If we think we can just turn inward and leave the rest of world to deal with their own problems, sooner or later, as the Calais crisis shows, other people’s problems will come to our door step and become our problem. Therefore, it is not enough to deal with migrant issues only at the border or with domestic policy; we have to address the illegal immigration at its source: their countries of origin. I’d like to believe many of these migrants are just like us: they want to work, be productive and build a good life for themselves and their families. Yet they see no hope of achieving these things in their home countries. Most of the illegal migrants come from countries with highly corrupted governments and some have suffered years of civil wars.
Martin Luther King, Jr. famously said “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” To protect our own way of life, Americans cannot lead from behind or not lead at all. Instead, we need to take charge and continue promoting free market economics, liberty, democracy and human rights. We need to tie foreign aid with demands of political reform and anti-corruption measures. International engagement doesn’t always call for a war. We need to be wise at choosing our tactics and strategies. But we should continue to strengthen our military so we will be ready to fight if necessary.
If would-be migrants can find peace and prosperity at home, they wouldn’t take on a treacherous journey to go somewhere else. Europe is facing a serious migrant’s crisis. So are we. A serious crisis calls for serious solutions. Time is up for all of us.