I generally stay away from political issues in the Home & Away environment. I am compelled to discuss what I consider crimes against mostly indigenous populations seeking asylum in our country. Thank you for reading.
Returning from my second time working with immigrant women at the family detention center in Dilley Texas at the end of 2019, I have some thoughts to share about the appalling state of immigration policy as it has evolved over the past year.
Did you miss out on investing in Apple stock when they first went public? Imagine what the stock would be worth if you bought it and held it until today. Did you miss out on investing in Amazon when it went public? How much would your stock be worth today if you still held it? When we look at the past through the benefit of hindsight, it’s easy to regret that we didn’t act boldly and didn’t make an investment that would have turned out to be the best financial decision we ever made.
Now let’s step away from our own lives for now and put aside thoughts of our personal wealth. Instead, let’s think about how decisions we make and actions we take can affect other lives. Think back to a different time and a different missed opportunity, an opportunity to save hundreds of thousands of human lives. Before the U.S. went to war in 1941, there was talk of concentration camps run by the Germans where Jews and other groups were being worked to death and exterminated. President Roosevelt’s administration was successful in saving some refugees, but imagine how many more lives could have been saved if an all-out effort had been made to resettle European Jews in the U.S. It is a complicated and nuanced issue, but most acknowledge that the U.S. could have done more. Doing more would have meant saving many lives.
We as a nation now have the opportunity to do more to save lives, many thousands of lives. Current immigration policies, which have been continuously tightened through Executive Orders and new regulations over the past twelve months or so, have effectively cut off immigration from three of the most dangerous countries in the world: El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala. The new policies are inhumane and cruel. They are crimes against humanity. We are turning people away from our country who are fleeing brutal, ghoulish gang violence, domestic violence, and more because their cases don’t tick all the boxes that our new policies have put in place as requirements for granting asylum.
Border agents, immigration officers, and immigration judges can rightfully say they are obeying the law when they turn people away or rule against them. Nazi officers who perpetrated heinous crimes claimed they were obeying the law because they were following orders from their superiors. We can’t expect these agents, officers, and judges to break the law, but we can demand that they treat people humanely and that they extend the protection of international immigration standards to the fullest extent.
So if agents, officers, and judges can’t change things, who can? We can. We can call our senators and congressional representatives. Let them know that we want no part of the crimes against humanity being committed by our government. We can march. We can speak out publicly. We can vote for people who do not support cruel immigration policies. We can volunteer for organizations that help immigrants. We can donate to nonprofit organizations that fight to help immigrants every day: Immigration Justice Campaign (www.immigrationjustice.us , RAICES (www.raicestexas.org), and Al Otro Lado (www.alotrolado.org) are three such organizations.
Before I finish, I want to make one more point: the rhetoric of the Trump administration would lead us to believe that all the persons seeking asylum in the U.S. are committing an illegal act by crossing the border and turning themselves in to Customs and Border Protection. Nothing is further from the truth. Persons who come to a U.S. port of entry and ask for asylum have the right to do so under international law. They are breaking no laws. They are not “illegals”. If they are illegal, all of us except for Native Americans are illegal.
Please, do what you can, in as many different ways as you can.
I thank all the staff of the Dilley Pro Bono Project and all my fellow volunteers for doing what they do. Special thanks to Hannah Cramer, who pointed out the historical perspective and the analogy with World War II issues.