More bridges, less walls

See Disclaimer.

I am struggling to understand the ICE raids in Mississippi.

I do get that the people arrested are illegally in this country. That ICE has the legal right to detain them. That some of those arrested have been temporarily released for humanitarian reasons, in particular to be able to re-join their children.

But on what grounds were these raids a good enforcement or government priority? Are we safer now? Has the economy improved? Did we solve an unemployment crisis? Are there Americans or legal residents lining up to do the jobs of those arrested? Are the Americans among the children of those arrested, better off now? Were those children, regardless of citizenship, protected from traumatic stress? 

The life of most illegal immigrants has to be nightmarish, in the better of the days. The everyday anxieties, fears and uncertainties; the potential for exploitation; the low wages; the lack of social benefits; the cultural disenfranchisement—to name only a few of their challenges. Just imagine the conditions that they experienced in their countries to make illegal immigration a preferred alternative.

Am I advocating for open borders or lawlessness? No, I am not. Illegal immigration is a complex issue, and should be addressed—preferably starting with thoughtful, long overdue action in Congress, towards a bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform.

I am advocating, though, that we don’t lose our humanity. That we see fellow human beings whose crime is (in most cases) just trying to escape poverty, social injustice or life threats—and hoping that their hard work earns them a better future. That we see children, who are terrified and traumatized, not guilty. That we see a humanitarian crisis, before we see an enforcement priority.

I am also advocating for the end of the intolerance, greed, hypocrisy and opportunism that confuse and contribute to the issue of illegal immigration. Illegal immigrants are a vulnerable workforce, easy to control and exploit by unscrupulous employers—and most Americans, willingly or not, benefit from illegal labor through (often cheaper) basic goods and services. And while comprehensive immigration reform is hard, illegal immigrants are (to our collective shame) easy props for candidates willing to use intolerance as a political tool.

We are a rich, powerful, creative nation. The argument can be made that our economic and political might partially created the societal instabilities that feed today’s migration movements from Central America and Mexico. Can we not find a solution that involves more bridges, and less walls?

— Antonio Baptista

Note: The second to the last paragraph was added for needed context.

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