U.S. Can't Walk Away From the Global Migration Crisis
(Bloomberg View) -- The U.S. decision to boycott United Nations talks on global migration is as irrational as it was inevitable. It was always going to be hard for President Donald Trump to resist an opportunity to snub both his predecessor and the UN, but refusing to participate can only harm American interests.
The record number of migrants and refugees in the world is not a fleeting crisis but reflects a continuing trend -- one driven by festering conflicts, environmental pressures and demographic inevitabilities. In 2000, the world's estimated 173 million international migrants represented 2.8 percent of the world's population, By 2015, there were 244 million, or about 3.3 percent. The question about the next migration shock, U.S. officials say, is not if but when.
So the U.S. has a profound interest in shaping a global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration -- the focus of the UN talks that Trump abandoned. Refugee flows have created an enormous burden for U.S. allies and partners such as Turkey (2.9 million refugees) and Jordan (more than 680,000). And a continued failure to provide educational and economic opportunities for the world's 22.5 million refugees, as well as agreed upon avenues for their return or resettlement, will sow decades of instability across the Middle East, Africa and Asia.
In announcing the U.S. withdrawal, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that the compact "contains a number of policy goals that are inconsistent with U.S. law and policy." Perhaps that's because the Trump administration has repeatedly flouted some of the principles enshrined in the declaration that the U.S. agreed to last year under President Barack Obama: Nations should detain children only "as a last resort," follow due process in handling asylum applications, and combat "xenophobia, racism and discrimination" against refugees and immigrants.
In fact, even when it comes to such sensible and humane standards, the envisioned compact promises to be aspirational. It won't trespass on U.S. sovereignty unless Congress chooses to codify its principles in law. There's about as much of a chance of that happening as there is of black helicopters and blue helmets descending on the U.S. to enforce it.
In the meantime, the Trump administration has again undermined UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, whose cooperation could help advance U.S. interests in a variety of areas. It has also forsaken an opportunity to elucidate its arguments on immigration. If the administration disagrees with the declaration's principles and goals, shouldn't it make its case instead of simply staying home? The global migration crisis is not going away, and neither oceans nor a wall can shield the U.S. from its consequences.
--Editors: James Gibney, Michael Newman
To contact the senior editor responsible for Bloomberg View’s editorials: David Shipley at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more columns from Bloomberg View, visit http://www.bloomberg.com/view.
©2017 Bloomberg L.P.