green-card

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.

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16 thoughts on “We Have to Talk About Immigrants

  1. Preach, girl! What is happening in this country right now is beyond belief. We are marching down a very slippery slope. And if this isn’t the thing that makes EVERYONE stop and question current policies, I fear there is nothing that will. Blindly following…rationalizing what you know is WRONG…is a very dangerous game. Just ask the Germans of the 1930s.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I made the connection yesterday that this is like a nightmare nativity–imagine Joseph and Mary looking for sanctuary – “No room at the inn” – and being forced into separate ‘mangers’ – “No families here” – and then when Jesus is born, ripping the suckling babe from his mother’s arms – “and we’ll take your baby for a bath.” Evil, maniacal, and so very, very wrong. ~ Blessings! :/

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Very thoughtful and logical argument. Sadly as I read your post CNN was telling us that the head of the DHS denies this monstrosity is child abuse and the germ currently infecting the WH is insisting it’s the Democrats fault. This will eventually end because the blowback is going to be too much to ignore and part of this tragedy is that it won’t end because people located a moral compass but because Republicans will fear their seats are in danger

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Well done, as usual. Have you read Warsan Shire’s poem “Home?”

    (https://qz.com/897871/warsan-shires-poem-captures-the-reality-of-life-for-refugees-no-one-leaves-home-unless-home-is-the-mouth-of-a-shark/)

    no one leaves home unless
    home is the mouth of a shark
    you only run for the border
    when you see the whole city running as well
    your neighbors running faster than you
    breath bloody in their throats
    the boy you went to school with
    who kissed you dizzy behind the old tin factory
    is holding a gun bigger than his body
    you only leave home
    when home won’t let you stay.
    no one leaves home unless home chases you
    fire under feet
    hot blood in your belly
    it’s not something you ever thought of doing
    until the blade burnt threats into
    your neck
    and even then you carried the anthem under
    your breath
    only tearing up your passport in an airport toilets
    sobbing as each mouthful of paper
    made it clear that you wouldn’t be going back.
    you have to understand,
    that no one puts their children in a boat
    unless the water is safer than the land
    no one burns their palms
    under trains
    beneath carriages
    no one spends days and nights in the stomach of a truck
    feeding on newspaper unless the miles travelled
    means something more than journey.
    no one crawls under fences
    no one wants to be beaten
    pitied
    no one chooses refugee camps
    or strip searches where your
    body is left aching
    or prison,
    because prison is safer
    than a city of fire
    and one prison guard
    in the night
    is better than a truckload
    of men who look like your father
    no one could take it
    no one could stomach it
    no one skin would be tough enough
    the
    go home blacks
    refugees
    dirty immigrants
    asylum seekers
    sucking our country dry
    niggers with their hands out
    they smell strange
    savage
    messed up their country and now they want
    to mess ours up
    how do the words
    the dirty looks
    roll off your backs
    maybe because the blow is softer
    than a limb torn off
    or the words are more tender
    than fourteen men between
    your legs
    or the insults are easier
    to swallow
    than rubble
    than bone
    than your child body
    in pieces.
    i want to go home,
    but home is the mouth of a shark
    home is the barrel of the gun
    and no one would leave home
    unless home chased you to the shore
    unless home told you
    to quicken your legs
    leave your clothes behind
    crawl through the desert
    wade through the oceans
    drown
    save
    be hunger
    beg
    forget pride
    your survival is more important
    no one leaves home until home is a sweaty voice in your ear
    saying-
    leave,
    run away from me now
    i dont know what i’ve become
    but i know that anywhere
    is safer than here

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Very well written, Anastasia. History will view this practice in the light it should – as a horrible atrocity perpetrated on innocent children by the elected government of the United States. Many will remember who supported it and who spoke against it. Good for Laura Bush and others like her.

    I moved from the US to Ecuador 5 years ago. Since I arrived, people have been warm, kind and welcoming to this blonde with blue eyes despite my looking nothing like a local and sometimes struggling while speaking Spanish.

    One particular Ecuadorian man I know immigrated legally to the US last year. While standing in the passport control line at JFK airport, people behind him told him to go back to Mexico. That was his “Welcome to the USA” moment.

    There are US citizens living in Ecuador who purposely overstayed their tourist visas or came in without going through passport control. In other words, they are illegally in the country. Many people know who they are but unless they are perceived as a threat, their illegal status is ignored and they are treated as normal people in their community. Some are parents with young children, all US citizens. I wonder how people would react if the same happened to these families.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. This is wonderful writing about a difficult subject. This is our moment to stand for what is basic human kindness, or to spend the rest of our lives wishing that we had. Thank you for so eloquently putting it into words.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. THIS, especially: “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?”

    I am so ashamed of our country right now.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I have a lot of blogging friends in Europe and Australia. I’ve been contemplating reaching out to them to find out where I’m falling on the asshole meter because of this. I just heard on the radio that the separations will stop. This is a direct result of people like you lending their voice. Well done.

    Like

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