The Santa Fe World Affairs Forum aims to broaden and deepen understanding of world affairs through small, interactive, professionally led sessions on international issues for a membership of informed individuals.

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  • SFWAF - Common Sense Immigration

Common Sense Immigration: Let’s Talk Facts and Distinguish between Good Politics and Bad Policy

 October 23, 2018

 Todd Greentree

The flow of migrants from Central America is a serious issue, but the United States is not suffering a general crisis of illegal immigration.  Let’s talk facts and distinguish between good politics and bad policy. Much of this is common sense. Other nations do not “send” their worst people to the United States, rather the U.S. remains a beacon for citizens of other nations who are seeking better lives for many reasons. The total number of unauthorized immigrants in the U.S.has actually declined from its peak of 12.2 million in 2007.More Mexicans are returning home than are coming into to the U.S, a trend that began in 2009 and which job growth from NAFTA has reinforced. MS-13, the gang that Trump loves to hate, spawned in the jails of Los Angeles, not the streets of San Salvador.

The surge of people fleeing violence in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras has its roots in the U.S.-backed civil wars of the 1980s, the “low quality” democracies that have resulted in the succeeding decades, and drug trafficking that transits Central America on the way to the U.S. Research generally shows that the crime rate among illegal immigrants is lower than the general population, and is even lower among legal immigrants. The principal implication is that solutions will come not by building a wall or draconian enforcement, but rather though a combination of effective border security, foreign assistance, and legislation that regularizes the flow of human beings into the country as well as the status of those who are here now.

Todd GreentreeA former U.S. Foreign Service Officer, Todd Greentree has served in five wars, from El Salvador in the early 1980s to Afghanistan between 2008 and 2012. 

Mr. Greentree graduated from the University of California Santa Cruz, received his master’s degree in International Studies from the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), and his doctorate in history from Oxford University. He has taught Strategy and Policy at the Naval War College and the University of New Mexico and was a Visiting Scholar at the SAIS Merrill Center for Strategic Studies. Currently, he is a Research Associate with the Oxford Changing Character of War Centre, conducts programs in Latin America with the U.S. Center for Civil -Military Relations, and teaches international relations at UNM. He is writing a book titled The Blood of Others, about the origins and consequences of the wars at the end of the Cold War in Angola, Central America, and Afghanistan.

Location at Santa Fe Community College Board Room (#223).


Thursday April 11 and Friday April 12, 2019

Past Event

Annual Symposium 2018

April 9 – 10, 2018

Values, Myths and Interests: Debating American Foreign Policy in an Unstable World

American foreign policy since World War II has relied upon soft power – the ability to influence others based on key human values. Since World War II, the US goal has been to project its image as a nation that is not only strong, but also “good,” drawing on the idea of American Exceptionalism to persuade others that the country is the “shining city on the hill” and a democratic “beacon of freedom” in a troubled world.

Yet U.S. foreign policy has also been guided by national self-interest. This pursuit has at times conflicted with our aspirations and led to less than admirable policies implemented through counter-productive means that diminished America’s standing in the world.

Today a debate over fundamental values rages within the U.S. and abroad. The world’s view of America is no longer favorable. Forty-nine percent of the globe views the United States and President Trump’s “America First” slogan unfavorably. Yet Americans themselves are still admired by fifty-nine percent according to that same Pew “gold standard” poll of international opinion. Can we change this increasingly negative view of our country overall, or if not, will it spread to individual Americans? What can we do to regain the world’s trust?

Barack Obama’s 2008 election was a source of hope at home and overseas. While his administration fell short of expectations, the U.S. did regain and retain much of the international community’s respect. But in the past year, many question if the United States’ foreign policy is guided by its aspirational values.

Are there fundamental human values that all nations and cultures can agree upon or are they idiosyncratic? How are such values interpreted in U.N. documents and organizations of which the U.S. was an instrumental drafter?

Many American aspirational values are enshrined in the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution. Do democracy, human rights, the rejection of tyranny, equality for all, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, constitutional government, freedom of the press and worship continue to call for respect domestically and internationally? How can we maintain a free media but deal with concerted efforts to undermine this bedrock of democracy? What about the value and importance of scientific inquiry, which has underpinned economic, health, national security, educational, social and technological foundations of the American success story since before the founding of the Republic?

Finally, can America still be influential on the international stage, or have we yielded that role to others through an “America First” form of isolationism that has diminished US stature with allies to the delight of our competitors and adversaries? What options do we have to navigate today’s unstable world?

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