OPINION: The U.S. is an immigration lifeboat, but who gets saved?

Is it an orderly process or is it every man for himself?

Many of the world’s nations and areas are wallowing or sinking ships; tens of millions of people a year are born into all or some form of abject poverty, lack of opportunity, despotic political systems, violence, corruption, disease, primitive healthcare and resulting shortened life expectancies.

Making things worse, many of those sinking ships have the largest and fastest growing populations on the planet and plenty of their passengers are actively looking for lifeboats as a way to be saved. The U.S. is one of the best lifeboats available and one of the few that can instantly change things for many in the short run.

Like almost every other lifeboat scenario, the crew and passenger spaces are limited and survival of the boat, and those already in it, is paramount; if you overload or seriously damage the boat, it just becomes another sinking ship and no one is saved. 

Another critical issue is the crew and passenger mix. If you have all rowers and no navigators, all navigators and not enough doctors, or not enough able-bodied seamen, the boat may get lost, swamped or the passengers perish from lack of resources or stability.  

This presents the classic lifeboat moral dilemma – who and how many should be allowed in the boat and what do you do about those who have forced their way in?

One of the primary reasons societal lifeboats even exist is that some crews (nations) have seriously addressed many of the things that threaten the sinking ships.  The number of crew and passengers (population control) and resource availability (benefits) are two keys to keeping the lifeboat afloat. Part of that is how many and which souls can be carried and how many more are needed.

On one side of the U.S. lifeboat they are busy enforcing those rules, asking people to wait to apply, be selected and processed, but on the other side of the lifeboat lot of people are just climbing in as fast as they can; their risky actions sometimes aided by those already aboard. Of course, there are always some who do not want anyone else in the boat, but a lack of crew is another long-term danger.

Authorized and unauthorized boarders do not come in randomly; the crew and passengers will tend to help their relatives, friends and others just like themselves. On occasion, some will even help those who can advance their personal interests, for instance, politically or economically. 

Authorized and unauthorized boarders may be equally helpful or equally burdensome, but they are not equally entitled. One group followed the rules and took their chances, the other group jumped the line leaving many rule followers in the water. Those still in the water have the ability to swamp the boat.

If you are the captain of that lifeboat, you’re really in a pickle. You have those people who followed the rules, many still treading water, waiting their turn, and you have a whole bunch of the spaces taken by persons who climbed over the back of the boat without permission often being protected by friends, family or members of their group seeking support. 

If you allow anyone to drown waiting their turn to get in or throw anyone overboard you’ll be called inhuman, but if the lifeboat has a riot, overloads, deteriorates or sinks, you’re the one who’ll be responsible for everyone’s death.

Good luck.

Marty Richman

Born and raised in Brooklyn, NY, Marty (Martin G.) spent his teen years in northern New Jersey. He served more than 22 years on active military duty, mostly in Europe, and is a retired U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer 4, Nuclear Weapons Technical Officer. Marty then worked 25 years in various engineering and management positions in the electronics and energetic materials industries supporting the communications, computer, aerospace, defense and automotive sectors. He is a graduate, summa cum laude, from The College of Hard Knocks, among his numerous awards and accomplishments. He was a regular weekly Op/Ed columnist and feature writer for The Hollister Free Lance for seven years and a member of its editorial board for five years. Marty is a frequent commentator and contributor to BenitoLink on a wide variety of local, state, national and international subjects.   Marty was elected to represent the City of Hollister District 4 on the City Council in November, 2018. Marty and his wife, Joyce, have been residents of Hollister since 1996.