As the world watches the airlifts out of Afghanistan with baited breath and follows the calls for resettlement of thousands of refugees in U.S. cities, we collectively turn our attention away from another humanitarian crisis, the one along the U.S./Mexico border. Helping those fleeing harm from Afghanistan is the right thing to do. How can anyone watch the videos of what is happening at the airport or listen to the pleas from the women educators and not see that? Thankfully, the citizens of the United States are rallying to welcome them, as we should. What is confusing to me is how we struggle to mobilize the same empathy towards our neighbors arriving at our southern border. They too are fleeing the same level of violence and poverty. But yet we look away or worse.
While it is critical, even if overlooked and under reported, that we see the similarities that these two catastrophes have in common; it is even more important that we respond with humanity. While the United States has a harmful history in both of these regions, we are at a point where we can choose to take a new path by aiding those fleeing harm. To do this the United States must set up a true immigration plan that will show the world how it’s done, rather than a continuation of the decades long knee-jerk reaction that is occurring now. This is no small task as it goes against patterns of centuries of actions that are contrary to what we can do should we decide to do it. While my head reminds me of our history, I remain hopeful that we will wake up from the nightmare of who we have been for so very long and choose to see and respond to the possibilities before us. This visualization is not an easy one but it is critical to keep us from devolving into an abyss of hopelessness.
Many who are in places of power choose to call what is happening along the southern border a crisis. Many others say that is the wrong term to use. But it should be clear that what is a crisis is our country’s immigration policies. Whether we want to admit it or not, we are living in a new time and our outdated, inhumane, and racist immigration policies need to become a thing of the past. We are at what many forecast to be the early stages of massive human climate migrations. How is the world, more accurately, the Global North, going to handle this? Are we going to build walls around our countries while we witness our southern neighbors perish? The United States is in a unique position and we need to decide if we are going to respond as the leader we consider ourselves to be.
I live in a rural state. A few years back we received hundreds of refugees. We set up humanitarian housing and aid. With little to no notice. It wasn’t grand. It wasn’t the best. But it was a response that came from wanting to help those who so desperately needed it. Our intent mattered. Along the southern border there are many humanitarian organizations who give everything to help those who have crossed and who have somehow, miraculously, not been swept up into our shameful detention/prison system. So how did/do they do it? As I said, intent matters. First and foremost, not one of these efforts which provide humanitarian aid operate with profits in mind. Second, they do not come from a militarized mentality of treating those they encounter as criminals. They are refugees and asylum seekers.They are destitute and desperate. They are in danger, have been severely traumatized, and need help and are treated as such. Our country’s first response should be to demilitarize the border. Yet, we are doing the exact opposite. Our second response should be to put in place an infrastructure along the border which administers the necessary aid with warmth and dignity and then gets those with sponsors and family to them as soon as it can be done. We need to provide citizenship to those who want it. Yes, all of them. We need porous borders. There I said it. Borders are bullshit. They provide reasons to cause harm to fellow human beings and need to go.
So what would this look like? I have heard people ask, “How would we take in all the people? Where will they live?” Well, let’s think about that. The Unites States has a population of over 330 million people. Would another million really matter? I don’t think so. We also are coming from an assumption that everyone wants to come to the United States. We lose sight of the notion that people really don’t want to leave their homes. They are forced to flee. Our foreign policy matters. If our country prides itself on innovation we need to decide this is worthy of our creativity and work ethic to make it right. Imagine if we became the beacon, illuminating how it can be done.
Below are two links. The first one, while made a few years ago, is sadly still incredibly relevant. The second is an example of how it can be.
Please, watch the video and read the article. Then call your representatives in congress and demand they prioritize humane immigration policies be written and put in place. As always, WWJD?
In peace and love,