Your "Sh**hole" or Mine?

A few weeks ago our current president referred offhandedly (offhandedly being his default mode) that there are "s**thole countries" in the world. Howls of derision ensued.

"Trump derides protections for immigrants from 'sh**hole' countries," whimpered the Washington Post, clutching its pearls.

"Trump referred to Haiti and African nations as 'sh**hole' countries," squealed NBC News, swooning.

"World Infuriated by Trump's 'Sh**hole Countries' Remark," brayed Time Magazine as it succumbed to the vapors.

"Rascist!" bleated Rupert Colville, spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner on Human Rights, as an aide made a dash for the smelling salts.

It's nice to pretend, in Panglossian fashion, that everywhere is just as good as anywhere, and every country on Earth is just the very best place to be. Of course nobody believes it for a minute. If all places were identically delightful, nobody would ever emigrate to anywhere.

Syria, for example, is a blood-soaked outhouse of a country these days. (Just ask Europe.) The Dominican Republic has long regarded Haiti as the malodorous butt-end of their shared island. And so on.

Then of course there are the countries to our south.

Oddly, the same busybodies and hankie-twisters who got their knickers in a bunch over the president's remark are the ones simultaneously bleating that we should throw open our borders because, well, things are really awful in Central and South America.

They should make up their minds. Either things are swell everywhere or they're not.

(They should also set aside their "Immigrants Welcome" signs and actually welcome some immigrants to stay at their houses. "Immigrants Welcome"? Great! How many can we put you down for?)

In the real world, there are good neighborhoods and bad ones. Relatively, Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador, et al are a collection of bad neighborhoods. Relatively, America is the good neighborhood just up the road. If you think that’s an unfair generalization, take a look at migrant flow now and for at least the last 100 years: Mexico and points south have an immigration problem like the one East Germany had: a whole lot of people deciding that better conditions are on offer elsewhere, and that a hazardous passage just might be worth it.

Admittedly, the comparison is far from perfect. East Germany was decidedly not in favor of outbound migration; its government was willing to shoot people trying it, just to emphasize official policy. The Eastern Bloc was hemorrhaging people, which under more prosaic circumstances might have been cause for nothing more than a shrug and a wave: “Good riddance, and don’t let the Brandenburg Gate hit you on the way out.”

But for the ideologues and bureaucrats of the “dictatorship of the proletariat,” the flashpoint of East vs. West Berlin offered too stark and just too darn obvious a comparison between competing ideologies—one of which was losing the comparison by a mile.

Up went the Wall, which ought to have been a great, big brick, mortar and barbed wire embarrassment—an admission of ideological failure unmistakeable to anyone who knew it was there. President Kennedy said at the time that while America wasn’t perfect, we never had to put up walls to keep people in.

We still don’t. As for Mexico... they don’t either.

Mexico’s approach to immigration into Mexico from points south is “Diablos, no!” No Hondurans, Salvadorans or other poor relations wanted, and none allowed. Traveling up the isthmus with plans to stay in Mexico is a fool’s errand. Mexico is tough as nails on intruders crossing their southern border with plans to stay.

However, southern visitors are quite welcome to keep on going north. Mexico’s relative laxity of late regarding enforcement on their southern border means that rather than being roughly turned back at their border or thrown into prison for a while and then roughly turned back, you’re welcome to climb on top of a train and hang on until you reach the Rio Grande, so long as you keep moving until you are no longer Mexico’s problem.

As to Mexicans heading north, the Mexican government’s position is: good luck, and send money when you get work.

Which they do. Remitted cash from la Estados Unidos is a great big boon to the Mexican economy. Emigration from there to here shifts lots of the demand for what are euphemistically referred to as “social services”—things like clean water, paved roads and police protection (as opposed to police corruption)—from their government to ours, while simultaneously enriching the Mexican economy by an estimated $30 billion a year.

A pretty sweet deal for Mexico. What do we get? Well, we get interesting lectures.

Here is Mexican president-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador on the subject: “We will defend… the migrants of the world who, by necessity, have to leave their villages to seek life in the United States; it is a human right that we will defend.”

Say what? It's a “human right” to live in the United States? And not just for ambulatory Mexicans, but for all the “migrants of the world”?

While Mexican politicians have always at least made half-hearted noises about improving things in Mexico so their people won’t want to leave, their new presidente electo isn’t even bothering to pretend he has any such plans.

But then again, why should he?