Chile Acts to Stem Mass Migration Amid Pandemic, as New U.S. Administration Induces New Migration Wave

Countries across the globe are struggling to maneuver the economic destruction caused by the Coronavirus pandemic. One country has taken the initiative to strengthen its immigration laws to preserve employment opportunities for its citizens during a strained labor market. 

To counter an anticipated wave of mass migration in the event Coronavirus recedes, the Senate of Chile passed a bill that overhauls the South American country’s immigration system.

A condition of the legislation tightens Chile’s legal immigration system, requiring that migrants demonstrate their work qualifications and must have a visa to enter. The bill also increases criminal penalties on illegal aliens residing in Chile.

The impetus to introduce this bill came after Chile’s Department of Migration released a report projecting that up to 250,000 migrants may arrive each year once the virus has slowed. The South American country’s economic success and general safety have already attracted many foreign nationals from Venezuela, Cuba, Haiti, and Peru. Since 2014, one million migrants have entered Chile.

The legislation still requires the signature of Chilean President Sebastian Pinera, a staunch supporter of the bill. President Pinera has urged the legislative bodies to accelerate the bill’s passage since this summer. He has been a firm opponent to open borders and has a history of pushing for stronger immigration policies. In 2018, Pinera’s Interior Ministry told reporters after refusing to sign a migration pact drafted by the United Nations, “We have said that migration is not a human right. Countries have a right to determine the entry requirements for foreign citizens.”

Pinera also pushed the bill for public safety reasons. He has addressed concerns about Chile’s lax immigration policies resulting in criminal aliens entering. Organized crime and drug trafficking by aliens have been recurring problems in the country since the 1970s.

Conversely, in the United States, President-elect Joe Biden’s strategy to combat the economic devastation caused by Covid-19 makes no mention of reducing immigration as a method to alleviate the labor market for unemployed Americans. According to a FAIR report, Biden’s immigration plan could eventually bring an estimated 50 million immigrants (legal and illegal) to the United States in the coming decades.

Chile has acted to implement sensible immigration reform, in a time when a global pandemic has claimed jobs from some 1.8 million jobs. The United States must also act to protect its citizens’ interests by securing the border and keeping in place its asylum agreements with Mexico and the Northern Triangle. These arrangements alone halt thousands of economic migrants from entering the United States and obtaining jobs that could go to struggling Americans.

Additionally, the U.S. should shift to a merit-based immigration system. Determining entry qualifications by work ability and education would fortify the American economy.

If the President-elect and Congress are serious about properly addressing unemployment, they should prioritize the interest of American workers. The last thing they should be doing is throwing open doors to mass illegal and legal migration.