As reported in the linked article, President Obama has proposed a resumption of talks with Cuba aimed at establishing legal immigration from Cuba to the United States.
In a fresh overture to Cuba, President Barack Obama is asking the communist government to resume talks on legal immigration of Cubans to the United States.Obama’s proposal would reopen discussions that had been closed off by former President George W. Bush since they were last held in mid-2003. His move comes ahead of the United States’ attendance at a high-level meeting early next month of the Organization of American States, where Cuba’s possible re-entry into the regional bloc will be discussed.
The State Department said Friday it had proposed restarting the talks to “reaffirm both sides’ commitment to safe, legal and orderly migration, to review trends in illegal Cuban migration to the United States and to improve operational relations with Cuba on migration issues.”
Cuba’s readmission to the O.A.S. and a normalization of relations with Cuba is a noble goal. The U.S. has nothing to fear from such a relationship. Free trade with Cuba would likely be a plus for the U.S., since the U.S. typically enjoys a nice trade surplus with island nations whose economies revolve around tourism instead of manufacturing.
But what about the issue of immigration? As an advocate of stabilizing the U.S. population, an impossible task without dramatic cuts in both legal and illegal immigration, you might think I’d be opposed to this course. Not so. What I oppose is admitting more immigrants than the number of people who choose to emigrate from the U.S. – about 50,000 per year. I have no problem with that figure including Cuba’s fair share. With a population of about 11.3 million people out of a global population (less the U.S.) of about 6.4 billion people, that means that we could afford to take in about 88 people per year from Cuba.
Is that the figure Obama has in mind? It’s impossible to know, but I doubt it. I suspect the figure he has in mind is orders of magnitude larger. The problem then is not legalizing immigration from Cuba; it’s the government’s lack of understanding of the ruinous effects of continued rampant population growth in the U.S. The problem isn’t 88 Cubans; it’s the economic philosophy that says we need to import 1.5 million immigrants every year in order to prop up economic growth.
Obama seems to be a man with one foot in the future and one in the past. He understands the dangers of our heavy dependence on imported oil, our over-reliance on rapidly dwindling supplies of fossil fuels, and the dangers of climate change exacerbated by the burning of those fuels. But, at the same time, he’s stuck in the economic mindset that can’t let go of population growth as an engine for economic growth, not wanting to ponder what happens when that strategy arrives at its inevitable failure.
President Obama speaks of change and hope – genuinely, I think. But what hope is there for breaking our dependence on imported oil and fossil fuels if every gain in efficiency is offset by population growth? What hope is there for averting climate change if a 30% reduction in per capita emissions is offset by a 30% growth in the number of “capita?” What hope have we for reducing unemployment if we import workers faster than jobs are created? In the end, what will have changed? Nothing, except that there will be a lot more of us burning oil, emitting CO2 and competing for relatively fewer jobs.
It’s time for the president to stop straddling the line between the past and the future if we are to have real hope or any meaningful change.