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Loving Our Neighbors at the Summit of the Americas

The Biden administration's approach to immigration aptly illustrates the problems with universalism.

“Our common humanity to man is that we care for our neighbors by working together.” So said President Biden at the Summit of the Americas over the weekend. 

On Friday, the Biden administration signed an agreement with Latin American nations with the goal of refocusing its approach to immigration. At the summit, held in Los Angeles, the president announced the “Los Angeles Declaration of Migration and Protection,” which seeks to mobilize the region around “bold actions that will transform our approach to managing migration in the Americas.” 

There were many non-legally binding commitments made during the summit—commitments hailed by the president as “historic.” Perhaps the “historic” nature of these commitments will prove to be that they are a feeble attempt at dealing with the actual historic rates of illegal immigration across our southern borders. 

What are these commitments? Well, the United States will be spending over $300 million in humanitarian aid in an attempt to give countries (such as Ecuador and Costa Rica) the resources they need to hold migrants so they do not continue traveling north. This is a noble goal. Migrants seeking asylum should be kept from traveling all the way to America when they first pass through other countries that could provide it for them. I could be convinced that money should be spent on such a plan. However, the usual question comes: What is the Biden administration doing to ensure that taxpayer dollars will not be wasted? 

Can the United States rely on these countries to hold migrants? I am skeptical. Take Costa Rica, for example, a country of only five million people that has received hundreds of thousands of Nicaraguans fleeing the nation’s dictatorship. Or Mexico, (who sent lower level representatives, but not the president, due to the U.S. not inviting the dictators of Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela), which has vowed to receive 15,000-20,000 migrants from Cuba (and perhaps more from Honduras and El Salvador) into a new temporary labor program. Mexico received 130,863 asylum applications last year alone—the third most in the world. Do these seem like nations who can properly take on more immigrants? 

What happens when the temporary labor programs end? Where will those workers go? Is there some form of information exchange between us and the Mexican government to ensure these migrants aren’t “lost” (illegally in the U.S.) after the work expires? What are we doing at our border to ensure this does not happen? 

The U.S. has also vowed to provide 11,500 H-2B non-agricultural seasonal worker visas for nationals of Northern Central America and Haiti. We will be spending $65 million in grants for American agricultural employers who hire migrant workers, too. But why not encourage American employers to hire American unemployed workers? Perhaps in heavy agriculture states like Kansas, or Oklahoma, who both have nearly a 5 percent unemployment rate? Why do we not secure our border, and why are we focusing on employing migrant workers when we have a looming high unemployment rate

Biden’s opening line about how “our common humanity to man requires we love our neighbor” is true, but who is our neighbor? One cannot love the “human race,” and treat “humanity” as a neighbor. Our affections and loyalties have limits, they are attached to specific people and places. This does not mean you hate others, or view them as less than. It means you know your limits and thus, where your duties lie. 

We should not be surprised, however, for this is the universalist spirit of liberalism. This is why Tocqueville described the French Revolution as religious—it pushed beyond the limits of attachments to home and place, knowing, like a religion, no bounds, and spoke for the rights of the human race. Being human means having limits, and only God can love the whole world.

about the author

Micah Paul Veillon is the ISI Journalism Intern with The American Conservative, and is a rising senior at Georgia Tech where he is studying history and philosophy, concentrating on the French Revolution, 19th-century French Sociology, the Counter-Enlightenment, Existentialism, and Hegel. Micah is also the editor in chief of The LibertyJacket, a free speech political paper at Georgia Tech.

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