In the current episode of the 2018 season of The World Has Completely Gone Off The Rails, have you noticed how much people hate immigrants?
We have to talk about this. I’m the wife of an immigrant. I spent years of my life living on the US-Mexico border. I currently reside in a state heavily affected by the current policies, and I’m a person with common sense who can read, therefore I’m completely fed up with the current national discourse on the subject.
First of all, American white people (because it’s pretty much always white people), do you even understand how stupid we all look when your first question when you see a crying child being separated from their parents is, “Well, did they come here legally?” Take off the MAGA hat for a second, stay away from the tin foil hat, and realize that nobody in their right mind wants to leave their home country unless things are really bad there, or something really good is waiting for them in the new place.
Really, think about it. You may think it would be cool or fun to live abroad, but have you ever really considered the logistics and details of it? I have. My husband is from England. It’s a great place, but I know if we moved there, which we may someday, it would be hard for me in some ways. I couldn’t get my favorite foods anymore. I would have to learn new customs, new laws, new cultural norms. If something happened to one of my relatives, I’d have to take an international flight to get to them, and that’s expensive. My professional licenses would need to be transferred. None of my electronics would work without converters. These are little things, I know, and that’s moving to a country people like to go to, not just whatever is next door and isn’t the situation you’re running from. The latter has no choice in it whatsoever. This isn’t something people are doing for fun. This is the international equivalent of your neighbor banging on your door because their house is on fire. Are you going to let them in or not?
These people are coming here because things have gotten bad where they came from. Have you ever been to the non-touristy parts of Honduras, Mexico, or any other country in that region, or even lived in a metro area that included both US and Mexican cities? Cartels run the show, child soldiers are a thing that exists, and the economy is horrible. When I lived on the border, there was one town in Mexico about 20 minutes from me that went through 5 police chiefs in one year because the cartels kept killing them. If you look at that place on Google Street View, you’ll see a bunch of Mexican Army checkpoints in the streets. Law enforcement is powerless, the government is bought, and people do really upstanding things like shooting up children’s birthday parties (something I used to hear about on the radio a lot when I lived on the border).
These people coming here didn’t want to leave their homes. They had no choice, and I would bet my entire salary for the rest of my life that if you were in that situation, you’d do exactly the same thing. I know I would. Even living on the US side of the border, as I did, it wasn’t if, but when, someone you knew was killed in a cartel-related incident. In the case of the person I knew, it was a case of mistaken identity. That sort of thing isn’t uncommon. They kill innocent people all the time, and are basically never caught or brought to justice. Yes, you absolutely would leave that environment by any means possible if you thought you could give your kids a better life somewhere else. Don’t act like you wouldn’t.
“But, Anastasia, they’re coming here to take all our welfare benefits! We shouldn’t have to support them!”
Where do I begin? First of all, you’re a morally bankrupt excuse for a person if you think that granting political asylum to people is worth less than the cost of some food stamps and Medicaid. That stuff isn’t even expensive. I wish they could all get full benefits, I really do. The reality is, immigrants are generally ineligible for benefits, and undocumented immigrants are always ineligible because they don’t have a social security number. When my husband got his green card, the immigration people were very clear that he could not qualify for any form of public assistance for five years. He’s never gotten public assistance, even after that, but the fact remains, immigrants are not coming here and eating up all the welfare benefits because they’re simply not allowed to get them in the first place.
Plus, social welfare benefits take up a minuscule portion of the federal budget compared to numerous other things. If you’re a real fiscal conservative, maybe you should be demanding the Department of Defense be audited, or check out how many tax breaks Wal-Mart got last year while paying their workers so little that most qualify for food stamps. We don’t need a single immigrant to have fiscal problems. We’ve proven over and over again that we’re fantastic at creating our own.
“But Obama did this, too!”
No he didn’t. Neither did Bush. Neither did Clinton. Neither did the other Bush. Neither did Reagan. Neither did Carter. Do you see the point here? Let’s not make this a Democrats vs Republicans thing. It’s so much bigger than political parties. We’ve got Laura Bush writing op-eds in the Washington Post against separating migrant families at the border. That alone should tell you this isn’t left and right. We’ve got the Southern Baptist Convention making statements against this. Religious Republicans, does that mean anything to you? This is about those with some shred of humanity drawing the line at this, and those completely devoid of humanity refusing to. If you’re a Republican, you should be extra outraged because this administration is perpetrating these acts under your party’s name. If you’re not completely pissed off about having something you identify with associated with this, ask yourself why.
“But there were horrible atrocities against Native Americans, Black Americans, and Japanese Americans throughout history, and I didn’t see you being outraged about that. Democrats are just looking for a pet cause to be outraged about.”
I was born in the 1980’s. I was not alive for things like slavery, Wounded Knee, Native American kids being sent to residential schools, or the Japanese internment. Hell, I’m not even sure my parents were alive for much of that stuff. I do know that those things were taught in history class as things we definitely don’t want to repeat. That’s what makes this so horrifying. We were taught about those other parts of history in school so that we would know not to do that sort of thing again, and here we are, doing it again, and we’re alive for it this time. Of course we’re outraged! This flies in the face of everything we were ever taught was ok!
Now, for you people who actually think this stuff is ok, that it’s actually excusable, or in some way commendable, to separate asylum seeking families, or even undocumented families who made it into the US, I really need you to ask yourself why you think that.
Why do you feel entitled to sit on a high horse just because you won some draw in the birth lottery and happened to be born into a country that was mostly safe for you to grow up in, and in most cases, to be born white, to middle or upper class parents, and therefore at the top of the heap even in this country? We didn’t earn any of this. We were just born here. It’s not like people are walking into our yard and driving off in our car that we worked and paid for. They’re crossing an arbitrary border created by politicians, into a place that is safer than what they left behind, and you feel self-righteous just because you were born on this side of that border? That’s illogical.
We all need to realize that every one of us has more in common with any given one of these immigrants than we do with the elites who are having them put into cages. That’s really what this comes down to. We’re not the rich. We’re not the powerful. Any one of us could be taken from any security we thought we had at any moment. We live in a country where people lose their homes and livelihoods because they got sick, or injured, or had a kid who did. We live in a place where millions of people are homeless and just as many homes are empty because the banks got bailed out when the economy crashed, but the homeowners never did. We live in a place where we’re told that we don’t deserve a living wage unless we get a highly sought after degree, and that we’re stupid for going into debt for that degree. We live in a place where fertility rates are falling, not only because people want fewer kids, but because an entire generation cannot afford to have children in the numbers needed to sustain our economy, and our social security system is not going to be around for those of us working today because of it.
Everything about our place in the food chain of class is precarious, and I think half the reason some people cast metaphorical stones at migrants is because they don’t want to admit to themselves that that could be us. The shoe isn’t on the other foot now, but it could be, and our government is comprised of some people who wouldn’t mind a bit if it were. The rich will always be fine. The poor will always be screwed. It’s those of us in the middle who feel the differences, and that’s got to have something to do with why so many middle class white people want to excuse putting migrant children into cages. “No, that couldn’t possibly be me or my kids. I’m here. I work hard. I’m ok. Right? Right?”
We have to do better. Donate to RAICES, the ACLU, and any other organization you know of that is providing immigration attorneys to help. Children in cages is not our legacy. It can’t be. We draw the line right now.