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As we prepare to close the doors on the horrors of the Trump Administration, President Elect Joe Biden will have his hands full trying to restore order and peace in the United States. He will have a long list of wrongs to right, and high among them should be the humanitarian crisis wreaked upon the refugees fleeing violence and climate chaos in the south.
The US immigration system has gotten away with murder for far too long, writes educator, author and Esperanza Project contributor Sarah Towle, who penned an open letter to the incoming First Couple explaining the situation and imploring immediate action.
Dear Joe and Jill,
I hope you don’t mind the informality, but as Jill and I have both been to the refugee camp in Matamoros, Mexico, I feel connected to you in some small way.
Now, I know you both have a lot on your plate at present. And I realize you’re going to be very busy come January 20, 2021, reversing thousands of lawless and unconscionable Trump & Co executive actions — over 400 related to immigration alone. But I write to implore you, on behalf of the heroes and humanitarians who’ve been flying the tattered flag of American values these past four years:
Please make the humanitarian crisis at the border and in detention centers throughout the country a top priority.
The U.S. immigration “system” has gotten away with murder for too long because it exists largely out of view. That changed when Trump & Co started ripping babies out of the arms of terrified parents. When we saw the images of kids in cages, when we heard their despondent cries, we all woke up. But…
Cages have been with us since the Carter administration.
Migrant families have been separated as far back as the 1st Bush.
Deterrence was a Clinton-era concept, as was the expansion of the prison-industrial complex. And we can lay at his feet the anti-immigrant acts of 1996.
And as much as we love Obama and credit him for standing up for DACA recipients, he wasn’t nicknamed the “Deporter in Chief” for nothing.
Still, Trump & Co’s manufactured border crisis stands apart for its cruelty. Cruelty was their point. They all agreed to take the children. That horror happened in the United States of America.
It’s time to enact comprehensive immigration reform in the U.S., once and for all.
To say the system is “broken” implies it ever worked. Now housed within the sprawling, dysfunctional, post-9/11 security infrastructure of DHS, it brings a proverbial hammer down, again and again and again, on what is really a humanitarian issue — and one of our own making.
Following decades of U.S. funding, arming, and training of some of the most brutal and repressive regimes in the hemisphere, death squads have become drug cartels; former military brass are now drug lords.
Yet, when their victims reach our doors, do we extend a hand? No.
Instead, we destroy their families; deny them due process; subject them to indefinite detention or disappear them to Mexico; and eventually deport them right back to the dangers they fled, if not death, at huge expense to the US taxpayer.
The Seven Deadly Sins of Trump & Co’s Immigration Agenda have destroyed the soul of our nation. It’s the other side of the Black Lives Matter movement: another American tragedy built on racist foundations that supports the world’s biggest detention and deportation complex in violation of national laws and values as well as international human rights conventions to which the U.S. is a signatory.
We are better than this.
We must Build Back Better with communities of caring at the Southern border.
We have the opportunity to replace a punitive criminal justice culture — the only employment option in many of our poorest areas — with jobs people feel good about performing, while extending a hand to new arrivals, especially those who are running for their lives.
Let’s turn detention centers into community centers. Let’s employ social workers, trauma specialists, early childhood educators, nutritionists, translators, and English teachers rather than Border Patrol agents and ICE deportation officers. Let’s offer young people career paths as immigration attorneys and mental health professionals rather than tracking them into jobs as jailers as soon as they enter high school.
Trump & Co’s cruel immigration agenda begs us to ask, what do we truly value as a nation?
Kids in cages?
Destitute families living in tents, preyed upon by cartels and kidnappers, hunger and hurricanes, mosquitoes and venomous snakes?
Indefinite detention of innocent Black and Brown people by for-profit prison contractors?
$35,000/person deportations to death, like the recent expulsion of Cameroonian asylum seekers?
These are Trump’s true walls: bureaucratic fortifications that make the promise of Freedom, Liberty, and Justice for all an impossibility in today’s America.
We must be better than this.
Yes, we need to secure ourselves from the threat of terrorism and the scourges of drug and people trafficking. But we canBuild Back Better by creating communities with heart where currently we are over-specializing in torture.
In your words, Joe: We’re Americans. We can do anything if we put our hearts and minds to it.
“Let us be reminded that before there is a final solution, there must be a first solution, a second one, even a third. The move toward a final solution is not a jump. It takes one step, then another, then another.” — Toni Morrison