For a Just Immigration Policy in 2022
It is May 2019. I’m on the #5 bus in Minneapolis, headed north on Chicago Ave toward downtown. This bus is the primary means to Hennepin County Medical Center, and the issue of space is premium. Like all city buses there are sections reserved for those traveling in wheel chairs and those who must have a seat in front for some reason. If no-one needs them, those spaces are open to anyone. Same goes for the seat next to you. You are welcome to spread out, put your packages on it, unless the bus fills up and someone needs the seat. If the bus is really full everyone needs to squinch up, move back, make room. In the front of the bus is a space available for big packages if someone needs it, and outside, a rack for two bicycles.
Both are taken today. Someone is hauling an air conditioner. A cyclist holds her pannier, sweating from unusual late-May heat. Sometimes people violate the rules, but today people are amazingly cooperative, given that 100+ temperatures at the bus stop are oppressive enough to fray nerves. The bus fills at transit station on 29th street. Later, when an elderly passenger gets on, and then a person in a wheelchair, we all readjust without being asked; a group shuffle.
Humans do have the ability to share space, but in most arenas we do not. To the contrary, those with the means grab what they want, from the air in a public meeting, to whole nations.
Take the United States for example, born by conquest and the continuing genocidal policies and practices against its Indigenous inhabitants. Using historical amnesia, religious theories of conquest manifested by God, and centuries of legal precedent, it has grabbed the spaces, resources and bodies of others.
History dictates that the US has no right to deny people entry, ever. Since the Atlantic slave trade corporate entities have been forcibly and with no limit to cruelty, moving humans from place to place to perform labor. After the end of the slave trade tycoons of the Americas sought labor from China to build its railroads and mine its minerals. It was then they discovered a solution, other than incarceration, to removing people when no longer needed. Deport them but vilify them first, so other working people will pave the way for you. Deport, import, by any means possible.
At the same time capital began moving, ignoring borders, in search people they could pay less and less and work more and more: Economic Liberalism. The people fought back with regulations and unions, but a century later capital dismantled those limits to their cruelty: Economic Neo-Liberalism.
Always, part of the inhumanity was the destruction of families, through slave auctions, restrictions on the migration of family members, “guest” worker programs, Indigenous boarding schools. Always children didn’t count, just profit.
Before Trump, Obama sat in the tent with Dreamers on the lawn of the White House, yet he was Deporter-in-Chief, for multiplying the number of people detained and deported and criminalizing those going through the process. Obama’s immigration policies were motivated by providing a quick fix for the Great Recession. The policy had no moral compass or consistency, other than to address corporate needs. Under his watch the US recruited workers from Thailand and Monrovia to North Dakota to work in hotels serving oil workers, until oil prices tanked.
Under Trump the racist rhetoric was up, the metaphorical walls scraped the sky, detention camps multiplied and the cruelty of the process magnified. The changes were significant, meant to tear down our empathy, feed hate, build callousness.
Now what about Biden? During his campaign he promised to reverse Trump’s immigration policies. To the contrary, he has entrenched them. The anti-immigrant rhetoric is gone, but the detentions, and deportations, the family separations, the Mexican refugee camps for Central American refugees, and cruel treatment of people seeking asylum continues.
Perhaps the most egregious policies of the Biden administration have been toward Haitian refugees seeking asylum from a nation that experienced the assassination of its President and numerous natural disasters exacerbated by climate change. In July of 2021, A coalition of about 50 immigrant rights groups signed a letter of notice that they are suing the Biden administration over the inhumane treatment of Haitian refugees.
Excerpt of the letter:
A coherent domestic and foreign policy agenda with Haiti is crucial to ensuring that the rights and protection of Haitians are prioritized through the compassionate exercise of prosecutorial discretion inside the United States and the application of U.S. asylum law to those seeking refuge at the border. No Haitian should be subjected to expedited removal or reinstatement of removal given the lives at stake and the Biden administration’s own assessment of the dangerous conditions in Haiti.
As Paul Pierrilus, who has been in hiding since he was deported to Haiti in February 2021 even though he was not born in Haiti and is not a Haitian citizen, said today: “If the country is not safe for its own President how can it be safe for someone like me?”
In September of 2021 14,000 mostly Haitian immigrants camped out under the border bridge in Del Rio Texas, nearly doubling the population of that border town, and overwhelming the ability of local humanitarian residents to address the needs of people who needed emergency basics like water, food, and diapers. Given the history of US economic sanctions of Haiti (1804-1860), occupation of Haiti (1915-1934), and interventions in the political affairs of the nation ever since, the US is directly culpable for much of the multiple crises affecting Haiti. The display of criminal and deeply inhumane actions by Border Patrol against Haitian refugees under the Biden administration, was a shock to many who believed Biden the candidate when he said he would reverse Trump border policies.
But lest we get stuck in the weeds, and lose the bigger picture, let us remember: there can be no justice when billionaires are borderless and working people are caged and controlled. Everyone must have the right to roam — and the right to stay home. It’s a global economy, a global climate crisis, a globe of finite resources. Atlantic and Pacific, it’s one polluting and rising ocean. We need a global minimum wage and a global maximum wage, global environmental plan for our children.
A borderless world may sound fanciful, but please remember: THE LAND THEY ARE WALLING IN WAS STOLEN.
So let’s move over on the bus, welcome the immigrant train and the refugee plane, say no to detention camps, deportations, family separations, reverse the historical trajectory, and extend solidarity without borders.