How To Stop Illegal Immigration Without Building A Wall, According To A Clinton Adviser

Mickey Ibarra went from foster care to the White House, and he's not done working towards change.

As Mickey Ibarra read about children being separated from their parents on the border, he was reminded of his own experiences as a toddler.

The son of a proud Mexican immigrant, Ibarra was separated from his birth parents and put into foster care when he was just 2 years old. But a long, tumultuous journey led him back into his father's life and — eventually — to the White House to serve first as an assistant to President Bill Clinton and then as White House Intergovernmental Affairs director. He's now the founder and chairman of the D.C.-based Latino Leaders Network.

Ibarra's father came to the United States on the Bracero Program during World War II, in which the Mexican and U.S. governments worked together to employ millions of Mexican workers on U.S. farms so Americans could still eat while much of the labor force was away at war. His mother was White and Mormon. At the time, Ibarra said, a young White woman with a dark-skinned Mexican man was so socially unacceptable that his parents eventually relinquished custody of him and his brother to the Utah foster care system. 


"But for the treatment of African Americans for many years, but for the treatment of Japanese-Americans during WWII,  but for the treatment of its own native people the American Indians, it's hard for me to imagine that our country — the U-S of A - has reached such a low level of behavior to ever have separated these children from their parents to begin with," Ibarra told A Plus. 

"I think it's a stark reminder that it is so important for all of us who care about civil rights and care about humanity that we must remain vigilant even watching to ensure that our own government conducts itself in a way that we ought to be proud of," he said.

Courtesy of Mickey Ibarra

Ibarra believes that the United States needs to return to prioritizing relationships with countries within the Americas as it did during the presidencies of Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton. He called on the Trump administration to create an "envoy to the Americas" and said that he sees a vacuum that needs to be filled in the immigration conversation. Nobody, he said, is talking about how to fix the root cause of the issue.

"Do we think the people really want to leave their country to come here?" Ibarra said. "I would suggest to you that in most cases that it is not the case. They are fleeing their own country, and most of it isn't from Mexico but south of the Mexican border, because of terrible conditions in their own country."

Ibarra believes that more focus should be put on "restoring the vitality" of the governments in the countries many people are migrating from, and said the United States would benefit a lot more from spending money on foreign programs to help countries in South and Central America than on a giant wall along the border. 

"It seems to me we need to redouble our efforts to strengthen and improve a lot of these countries so that in fact it would stem the migration pattern," he said. "We cannot simply continue to lock people up at the border and expect that that's going to stop the flow of undocumented immigrants."

Courtesy of Mickey Ibarra

Despite the negative news cycle, Ibarra believes that America can fix its "broken" immigration system. He cited lawmakers and presidents from both sides — Clinton, Reagan, Sen. Bob Menendez among them — who have approached immigration issues with the kind of vigor and common sense he believes it will take fix things. 

"We know our immigration system is broken, but we also know that we have the ability to solve this problem and address it," he said. "We've gotta stand up and get engaged. If you care about America and you care about the direction we're headed in, you've gotta stand up. You've got to. It's your civic responsibility."

Cover image via HERIKA MARTINEZ/AFP/Getty Images.


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