Friday, July 13, 2018

We’re Flattening Immigrants

The current immigration policy in the United States flattens immigrants. It does not make a distinction between different types of immigrants, lumping them all together “flattening” the complex ways people come to this country and the nuanced policies we had in place to deal with different types of people. It also flattens them in the sense of it squishes them, destroying their lives.
              I think of the Indonesian folk I’m connected to. It used to be their names were on a list of people whose presence in the US was, I’m going to use that word again, nuanced. As ethnically Chinese Christians they were in danger of persecution back home, so we invited them in to this country, gave them travel visas, then winked and nodded, asking them to come back every year to check in, but promised they’d be okay. For two decades they were on a list of people who overstayed their travel visa, but there was a footnote next to their name indicating that if they returned to their home country they would be in danger, so when ICE interacted with them they would not arrest them. Then the President’s executive order changed policy at the Department of Homeland Security, and soon all the footnotes on ICE’s list were gone—and so were these Indonesian fathers who left behind American kids here between the ages of 1 and 16. The list had been flattened, everyone was the same, flattened too were three families who now are without breadwinners and a church without some of their leaders.
              I think of these children being held in cages. They are forced to represent themselves in court. Yes, three and four year-olds representing themselves in court. Again, American immigration policy is flattening immigrants, squishing 3-year-olds and thirty-year-olds into the same category. Flattening, as well, these poor kids who are playing with elevator buttons and sitting on tables chewing on their toes, instead of answering questions that might protect them.
              I think of those soldiers serving in the US military in order to earn their citizenship, being deported. To be clear, there are US soldiers who have served two tours in Afghanistan who are being deported. Again, a flattening in which folk who served in uniform are seen as no different than civilians who have not; previous policies and promises are squished out and leak out as people who fought for our country are flattened by that same country.
              Current immigration policy in the US is ignoring the particular stories and situations of folk who come to this country.
It doesn’t matter if we promised you citizenship if you were a citizen soldier,
it doesn’t matter if you are three, you still need to be treated like an adult,
it doesn’t matter that you will be discriminated against and in grave danger if you return home you are out of here.
We’re ruining people’s lives. I can’t help but wonder, is it because the current administration is not capable of handling the complexity of actually governing and are simply governing on slogans or if they don’t understand American values and prefer blunt authoritarianism, or if they are simply cruel.