Those of us in refugee affairs have been following the development of the possible Global Compact on Migration, which it is hoped would facilitate global cooperation on the refugee and migration crisis. Today, the Trump administration announced it is leaving the process, essentially saying that whatever the rest of the world decides to do about the migration crises, the US will not be taking part in that decision. As Marc Goldberg at UN Dispatch points out, it’s a bizarre decision with no upside for the US, but will probably win Trump praise from immigration and anti-UN hardliners, for whom all international cooperation is a plot to undo US “sovereignty.” (Never mind that we are the biggest and richest country, and that as a result, we set most of the policy at these things.)
Goldberg aptly compares our decision to leave the negotiations over the migration crisis to our decision to leave the Paris Accord. In both cases, it’s like our apartment building caught on fire, and our neighbors pounded on our door to get us to come down the stairwell with them, and we keep saying, “no thanks, we don’t believe in fire.”
Many hoped the negotiations currently underway to cooperate on migration and refugees would result in a binding agreement. Maybe the Trump administration is worried about that, too. Trump’s over the top reaction to the refugee deal between the US and Australia shows that he intends to cut all immigration, no matter how tiny, no matter how humanitarian, no matter how much our allies and neighbors desperately need our help, including the resettlement of refugees, in an attempt to “wall” the US off from the rest of the world.
The problem, of course, is that immigration enforcement is hugely expensive, often doesn’t work, and simply leads to the destabilizing of important allies and neighbors. The world exists. It is not “fake news.” Take a look at the strain Lebanon is now under as a result of the huge influx of Syrian refugees. Lebanon is one of our most important allies in the Middle East. Where is this going?
It’s very typical of Americans to ignore the rest of the world — we have spasms of isolationism every few decades. But if you go on ignoring a fire in your apartment building, like ignoring climate change or the refugee crisis, you’re going to start feeling pretty warm sooner, rather than later. One day you might look up from tweeting and realize that all of your neighbors have exited the building with out you, and the fire is now at your door.