Immigration in Trumpland, Year 2
As deportations spiral upward, and as plans to bar different groups of immigrants from the US appear on Friday evenings with some regularity, I find myself appalled by the level of cruelty these changes to our immigration policy create. How can we reasonably envision sequestering asylee children from their parents, simply because a border official misinterpreted the law on asylum?
Having worked during my career with a broad segment of the immigration laws and regulations of this nation, I realize the body of law on this topic is more than complex. Understanding the full ramifications of a proposed policy or practice might be challenging, so does the current administration not understand the cruelty they are imposing? A recent article in The Nation suggests that not only do current officials understand the effects of their actions; they are in fact implementing these policies and practices purposefully, in order to support white supremacy.
Former Secretary of Homeland Security (and current White House Chief of Staff) John Kelly is quoted in this article as saying he would do “almost anything” to deter parents from seeking refuge or asylum in the United States, including implementing a policy of separating such parents from their accompanying children while in immigration detention. Since few aspiring immigrants to the US in the 21st century actually come from Norway or other primarily Caucasian nations, it’s clear that Kelly’s goal is to keep out persons with brown or black skin, to help delay the day when the US inevitably becomes a “majority minority” nation.
This is one reason the current administration has focused on California, the state with the largest immigrant population and one that has been challenging federal law in this area. In March the Justice Department filed suit against the state for three laws the DOJ says infringe on federal supremacy in immigration enforcement. When a state tries to protect or support immigrants, that action is deemed by this administration to be overreaching; empathy and compassion are not, apparently, permitted.
Yet is it so very difficult to see oneself in the faces of immigrant children and their parents? Can we not imagine what it would feel like to hear the screams of one’s daughter who had been taken away by Customs and Border Protection? I realize there are those who will say their forebears entered the US legally, yet that likely happened when the very stringent laws and regulations we have today were not in force. I know that #IWouldntBeHere if my grandmother in 1899 had been required to meet the high bars to entry that current economic refugees (like she had been) must meet. I also know many recent immigrants have gone through a significantly difficult and lengthy process to achieve H-1B (specialty occupation) status, and then to become Lawful Permanent Residents (“green” card holders), perhaps finally gaining citizenship. Based on all their difficult experiences going through that complicated process, they may look at newer arrivals and resist granting them any concessions. My response to that view is these green card holders and new citizens should never have been put through that wringer either; we should have welcomed them more fully, with open arms, just like my grandmother was welcomed in the 19th century.
I also know that, ultimately, a nation is never rewarded for cruelty, although to some it may seem so in the short run. In the longer perspective, that nation will always be judged for those they have turned away, for those whom its leaders have terrorized. I would like our United States to turn away from the cruelty that Secretary Kelly hoped would decrease the flow of persons with brown or black skin to our borders. The nation I love embraces its immigrant past and honors its majority minority future.
Submitted by: Deb Pierce served as a Principal Designated School Official/Responsible Official at a public university in Illinois, working with nonimmigrants in the visa waiver, B, F, J, and H classifications, as well as with individuals applying for Lawful Permanent Residency (the “green” card). She is a co-founder of Indivisible Naperville.
This nation needs immigrants if we are to continue to support our economy. Without new residents, our population is shrinking, a decidedly anti-growth trend. And yet, this supposedly pro-growth administration seeks to raise the bars to entry to our nation, keeping out those who would