Immigration as a talking point or campaign issue often glosses over the real stories of the human beings at the heart of headlines and vitriol. And sadly, once the rhetoric dies down, people often forget that daily, thousands of people are still working through the labyrinthine system that is the US immigration. Before the end of the year, let’s stop and think about what this year has looked like and try to place some humanity back into the ongoing “immigration issue.”
On November 25, the caravan of refugees seeking asylum (let’s call them what they are) reached the Mexico and United States border, only to be met with tear gas by border agents. The rhetoric surrounding their arrival was dominated by right-wing media, spreading misinformation and fear on the airwaves and in our social media feeds. That propaganda was used heavily in the lead up to the 2018 midterm elections as well, with enterprising conservatives capitalizing on people’s bigotry and fears in nasty ways.
Ultimately, as reported by NPR, many of the worst of the worst anti-immigrant candidates lost their races. But the “immigration issue” didn’t start during campaign season.
Over the summer, we learned that children were being forcibly removed from their parents and many put up for adoption. Parents were misled by federal agents about seeing their children again and self-deporting themselves. This was not only an issue about federal agents misleading parents and children but also the fact that many of these families do not speak Spanish, they only speak their Indigenous language. Court filings showed that many of these families deemed “ineligible” were in fact eligible. What’s worse, the Office of Refugee Resettlement, an office within the Department of Homeland Security, has been working closely with ICE and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to report families who are sponsoring the children who came to the US without an adult to arrest the sponsors of the children.
But the “immigration issue” didn’t start in the camps over the summer.
On May 25, 2018, Roxsana Hernandez Rodriguez was killed while in custody and had health issues that went untreated, as well as signs of physical abuse inflicted by federal agents. In these asylum seekers’ homelands, they may leave in fear of living their true selves. The Trump Administration released a memo, eradicating the guidance from the Obama Administration supporting transgender folks under Title IX; the current administration is working with the Department of Health and Human Services to legally define “sex” as the one assigned at birth and listed on the birth certificate. This could be potentially harmful for any transgender or non-binary person seeking refuge in the United States after they are resettled. Transgender people are facing much discrimination on their journey to the United States.
The “immigration issue” didn’t start in 2018. And it isn’t JUST about the complex situations for which people make the decision to physically move from one side of the border to the other.
Are you seeing the theme here? Families are torn apart and if not by being separated from their children, then knowing their loved ones could die in custody. These are human beings seeking asylum in a country that promises to be the shining light on the hill- instead, these asylum seekers are being met with the institutionalized terror they thought they were leaving behind. There’re climate issues at work as people’s homelands are physically changing as a result of the man-made effects of climate change.
And just because the headlines aren’t there everyday, immigrants and refugees on both sides of the border continue to be marginalized by US institutions. Last week, an agent was acquitted of manslaughter; he was charged for killing a Mexican teen from across the border. And a look at headlines from around the country today include the following reports:
- He’s a U.S. soldier deployed on the southern border — and an unlawful immigrant: Washington Post
- Valuable Immigrant-Founded Startups Coming To U.S. Stock Market: Forbes
- ICE got 16 times more complaints at private immigrant jails than at those it runs: Quartz