I am sorely under-informed as far as current events and politics are concerned. This is because I decided a long time ago to forgo watching the news–to forgo participating in the catastrophic postulations sensationalizing the state of the world. This, not at all because I don’t care, but because I suffer from OCD, and if I allow myself to go down a sensationalist rabbit hole, I may never recover. Thus, I choose to filter the content I consume, in effort to be a productive citizen of the world. With that said, I am not blind to the discriminatory practices of the U.S. government targeting people of Central American lineage. Maintaining a social media presence of my own, I find the headlines across my feeds disturbing. I have questions. Many questions, and as a curious individual, I sought answers over the course of the day, and I would like to share with you some of what I learned, in addition to my own feelings about this issue of immigration management in the United States.
For starters, the United States has a history of detention practice. The law became more stringent in 1996, when President Clinton signed the IIRIRA. The Illegal Immigration Reform and Responsibility Act increased punitive action against immigrants who broke U.S. law. According to Vox, this action penalized immigrants “whether they were unauthorized immigrants who’d violated immigration law or legal immigrants who’d committed other crimes.” These laws increased deportations, as well as required the mandatory detention of many immigrants who awaited trial.
In the Obama years, detention and deportation numbers increased. According to this Vox article, the number of detainees and deportations soared during the Obama years because there was a legitimate surge in migration across the border into the United States at the time. In contrast, our current president is treating current elevated numbers as though it is another surge in migration, cracking down hard with a “zero tolerance policy,” which has employed inhumane practices such as the separation of families and overcrowded, understaffed detention centers.
My question–with regard to all of these laws and practices, regardless of the statistics tracking immigrants by number–is why? Why does our nation have such aggressive legislation to deter migration and enforce deportation of migrants from Central America? Are all the people migrating en masse legitimate “threats” to the civil liberties and security of the great U.S. of A? Consider their reasons for coming to our country. Victoria Defrancesco Soto said the following in an article for The Hill:
“The Northern Triangle, made up of Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, ranks among the most violent countries in the world. The homicide rates in the Northern Triangle and in Venezuela are the highest in the Americas, as well as globally. Drug trafficking, gang violence and anemic state institutions combine to produce desperate situations for inhabitants of this region.”“The Fundamental Flaw of ICE Raids to Deter Immigration”
With that said, it seems to me that those individuals endangering their own lives in search of safe harbor on our soil, do so for good reason. As Thomas Paine wrote in 1776, “This new world hath been the asylum for the persecuted lovers of civil and religious liberty.” According to dictionary.com, asylum is “a refuge granted an alien by a sovereign state on its own territory,” and refuge? Refuge is “shelter or protection from danger, trouble, etc…” Yet the present administration is aggressively laboring to restrict–obliterate, even–legal entry for asylum.
I can’t pretend I have some genius solution to the problem of migration to the U.S. by inhabitants of Central America. I suppose I just do not understand why it is so important to bar entry to our country. Why?
Is it fear? If so, what do Americans fear? Is there some limited American pie that will be devoured by immigrants before “true” citizens have an opportunity to dine? Is it the loss of jobs? I have heard that argument in the past. There is this obsessive fear that migrant workers “steal” jobs from hard working Americans by accepting lower wages, off the books, from employers. However, in our history, there has been legislation to address this issue with employers, and rarely is such legislation enforced. Perhaps hard working, impoverished Americans rightfully fear the influx of illegal migrants because of competition for jobs, but what about all the upper middle and upper class people with professional careers–what have they to fear by allowing entry to immigrants? Is it drug violence? How does this affect the vast population of Americans? Americans who flee to the suburbs to protect their children from the already drug infested streets of the city? Immigrants enter our country and take their place amid the already impoverished American communities, which are already burdened with drug violence. They aren’t exactly threatening the safety of suburbia, are they? Similarly, this line of thinking assumes–wrongly–that every Central American migrant is overtly connected to the network of cartels from which they are simultaneously(?) trying to escape. Do these people receive government assistance? Are they somehow receiving benefits and money that “law-abiding” citizens are not receiving? Is the outrage over taxes? Many do, in fact, pay taxes, which happens to be a convenient consequence of the illegal appropriation of real social security numbers in order to acquire employment.
Yet again, I am sorely under-informed about the ins and outs of government services and who is and isn’t entitled to which benefits. Nevertheless, my position is that humans are humans.
Most of my readers know I have intentionally abandoned fundamental Christian practice. This is part of the reason why: I have struggled–for years–with the contrast between the red letters of Jesus (within the Christian Bible) and the authoritative power of New Testament epistles. I honor Jesus because he practiced compassion, empathy, inclusiveness, and mercy. Jesus said, in Matthew 25:35-40 (NIV):
“‘For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ ‘Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ ‘The King will reply, ‘Truly, I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'”Jesus Christ
This is the model I hope to follow. These people, whether “legally” or “illegally” entering our country, are doing so to escape terrifying realities. They risk everything to escape Hell on earth. Who are we to deny them a piece of our heaven? As to the question of The Law, well, I don’t know about you, but I can certainly say I regularly break the law when I choose, with intention, to drive 5 over the speed limit (pretty much every day). I know for a fact I am not alone in this. Are traffic laws less viable than immigration laws? Is “illegal” entry into our country a worse offense than speeding? What about all the laws corrupt public officials regularly break behind closed doors with no consequence? Is “illegal” entry worse than rape? Assault? You decide.