The expiration of Title 42, a pandemic-era measure that allowed for the prompt expulsion of asylum seekers, was followed last week by an entirely predictable flood of migrants across the southern border of the United States. The chaotic scenes broadcast from places like Brownsville, Texas, looked less like a case of bad policy and more like an actual loss of control.

President Biden didn’t offer much reassurance, stating: “It’s going to be chaotic for a while.” Perhaps, though, there is a method to this madness—just not one Biden or the rest of the US governing class is likely to own up to in public: An influx of cheap labor will help drive down wages, thereby giving America an edge in its escalating economic competition with China. If such a gambit “works,” needless to say, it will do so at a huge cost to the American body politic.

As it happens, a botched migrant crisis was one of the proximate causes of the fall of the Western Roman Empire. The Goths, having been displaced by more violent and dangerous tribes arriving from the East, did the only thing they could do: They fled to the West. The Romans were accepting at first, but the spirit of cautious optimism didn’t last long. Famine and sickness hardened hearts on both sides, and after a failed attempt at kidnapping a tribal leader, Fritigern, the Goths had had enough. The resulting war would eventually see Emperor Valens perish at the battle of Adrianople.

“The current crisis might not be immediately dangerous, but it is destabilizing.”

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