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Militarising the US-Mexican border

Plus: the value of asylum seekers; Brexit; after Merkel


As so often with Donald Trump, the move is both for show and at the same time deadly serious.

Sending up to 15,000 US troops to defend the border with Mexico against an unarmed “caravan” of Central Americans fleeing violence to seek refuge in America is primarily a way of rallying the Republican base for today’s crucial midterm elections.

The images of American soldiers laying barbed wire on the border as if they were preparing for war are mostly a pricey PR stunt.

The phantom menace isn’t even anywhere near the border yet; the first Central Americans are only just arriving in Mexico City.

But Trump’s militarisation of the Mexican border is also an alarming escalation of the tendency to portray migrants as an invading army.

His rhetoric about Mexican rapists and murderers invites fear, hatred and violence.

And now American soldiers who are trained for combat, not border control, are primed to repel the Honduran “threat”.

The risk that soldiers will use violence is all too real.

Trump is asking for it — and if he gets it, the immigration debate in the US will take an even nastier and more dangerous turn.

Let’s hope American voters reject his lies and manipulation today.

Contrary to public perceptions, asylum seekers aren’t a burden to Europe.

That’s the conclusion of a ground-breaking new study by Hippolyte d’Albis, Ekrame Boubtane and Dramane Coulibaly, which they summarise in a piece for OPEN.

The three French economists examined the impact of migration flows on the economic performance and public finances of 15 western European countries from 1985 to 2015 and found that inflows of asylum seekers did not harm economic conditions in those countries.

On the contrary, there is a positive effect once asylum seekers are granted long-term residency and contribute to the host country’s economy by working.

And the faster asylum seekers are allowed to work, the bigger their positive contribution can be.

Read their article in full.

CER senior research fellow and OPEN fellow Sam Lowe has rapidly established himself as one of the UK’s top Brexit experts.

In his latest Brexit piece, he explains why a woolly political declaration about the future relationship between the UK and the EU (as distinct from the legally binding exit deal) could help Prime Minister Theresa May get the deal approved by Parliament.

In my contribution to a symposium on Brexit published by The National Interest, I argue that the negotiations between the UK and the EU, and the parliamentary battle, are a multi-layered game of chicken.

While it may seem unlikely now, I think the UK government and the parliamentary rebels will ultimately fold.

It would be fantastic if a second referendum could be held that stopped Brexit, but I think it’s unlikely.

My baseline scenario remains that the catastrophic prospect of a no-deal Brexit will ultimately ensure that a deeply unsatisfactory deal is done and approved by Parliament.

Angela Merkel’s announcement of her political departure has prompted a predictable response from many quarters: that she was the “steady hand” that held Europe together, and that her “strong and stabilising leadership” will be sorely missed.

Nonsense. Merkel’s 13 years in office have involved domestic drift and European decay. She has complacently coasted along, failing to address Germany’s mounting economic and security challenges, and allowing Europe’s many crises to fester. Her approach would be tolerable for a small country in quiet times; it is catastrophic for Europe’s dominant power in an era of upheaval, as I explain on Project Syndicate.

To be sure, with Trump demolishing the liberal international order and swivel-eyed nationalists running amok in Britain, Hungary, Poland, Italy, and elsewhere, Merkel deserves credit for offering a calm, reassuring voice of moderation. Her decision to welcome more than one million refugees was an uncharacteristically bold humanitarian gesture.

But Merkel’s tepid leadership has left Germany exceptionally vulnerable to today’s nationalist backlash.

Read the piece in full.

Has migration gone too far? I debated this with Ian Goldin at The Economist’s Open Future Festival in London. Having just flown in from Sydney I was extremely jetlagged, but apart from saying the word “fundamentally” a few too many times, I hope my positive, reasoned message came across well.

Watch the full day on YouTube; our panel starts around 7 hours 11 minutes in.

Fewer crossings, but deadlier:

113,462: migrants arriving by sea in Italy in 2017 (by 4 November)

22,088: migrants arriving by sea in Italy in 2018 (by 4 Nov)

2,775: dead and missing in Central Mediterranean in 2017 (by 4 Nov)

1,252: dead and missing in Central Mediterranean in 2018 (by 4 Nov)

2.4%: death rate in 2017 (by 4 Nov)

5.7%: death rate in 2018 (by 4 Nov)

Source: UNHCR

Have a great week.


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