“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
Excerpted from “The New Colossus” by Emma Lazarus, engraved on the Statue of Liberty. The poem refers to the millions of immigrants who came to the United States (many of them through Ellis Island at the port of New York).
A Few Thoughts
The United States is a nation of immigrants. Our heritage and our strength are founded in an embrace of pluralism held together by a shared belief in particular rights and values. The current debate surrounding the influx of illegal Hispanic migrants or legal Muslim refugees is, in its essence, about our core values as a nation. We are weighing the value of our pluralistic identity (referenced in the poem above) against what is perceived by some to be an existential threat, whether it happens through physical violence or the gradual erasure of older subcultures across America. Demographics and demographic trends are very important to this discussion. How are populations growing, shrinking or moving? Where are the job and education opportunities located with respect to those populations? What are the ideological and cultural trends that motivate those populations to change? Immigration affects the answers to these questions in expected and unexpected ways. This proposal is an invitation to discuss specific pros and cons, given demographic trends, of establishing a refugee welcome center in Puerto Rico. This is an idea that will be greeted with naive optimism by some, and rash skepticism by others, so take it all with a grain of salt, perhaps just as a thought experiment.
- Puerto Rico used to have a robust military presence and still has the infrastructure for multiple, large military bases with coastal access. This infrastructure could be updated and adapted to become a refugee welcome facility and as refugees are cleared through the system, the Puerto Rican hospitality industry could facilitate transportation and accommodations en route to mainland USA.
- Puerto Rico has massive crippling, debt and could benefit from federal funds and a service industry around assisting refugees
- Puerto Rico has a history of military service and the Puerto Rican veteran community could continue to serve and benefit from more defense related jobs and infrastructure in DHS, TSA, ICE, and other agencies
- Puerto Rico recently declared its official language to be Spanish
- An historical precedent exists with the usage of Guam following the Vietnam War as a site for effectively processing refugees into the United States – John Oliver makes a decent point below:
So what do you think?
What are the security risks and benefits?
What are the potential up and down sides?
What are the benefits and draw backs for Puerto Rico, or for the United States?
I look forward to reading your thoughts … Graham
PS – tangential but interesting, check this out