Can We at Least Agree, Free Range is Better than Caged
How do we “fix” the “problem” of undocumented immigrants in the US, as well as the influx of refugees and asylum seekers at the southern border?
Virtually any suggestion would be better than what the current administration is doing, and what was done by others of the recent past. Militancy and militarism, the favored method of late, are among the absolute worst options. They are not worst only because it is an evil thing to respond with hostility and violence to poor and desperate people whose only expressed desires are to work to provide for themselves and their families, to live. They are about the worst possible ways we could be handling this situation because they are the actions guaranteed to make matters worse. No positive outcome can be expected from violence in this situation.
To be clear, I am not a true pacifist, in that I believe there are cases in which violence and destruction are the best or only option. My fairweather pacifism is one which insists that while rational and empathetic communication, debate and cooperation are the best first options, there may arise situations when you need to bust a motherfucker in the face, even kill them, when better options are exhausted and a genuine threat is presented.
There is, however, nothing good that can come from the way people are being treated at the border or within our country. The expressed intention of administration officials has been to make the situation for migrants, asylum seekers and refugees so unbearably cruel that they and others will be scared away. If this plan actually worked as well as its implementers could hope, the result will be violence and death. No one leaves their home, communities and families, travels thousands of miles through harsh landscapes and gauntlets of human predators all to come to a country whose leaders express nothing but hateful contempt for them, all in the hopes of living perhaps the most modest and difficult lives we could imagine here, unless they desperately need to. They come because they and their children would likely die if they stayed. It’s that simple. The fear they know drove them here. Whatever fear we can incite in them through inhuman treatment here (through word of mouth? because many of these people don’t have access to 24-hour news coverage and high-speed internet where they’re coming from) can hardly match the danger they’re fleeing.
It is also arguably our responsibility to take in and provide for these people because much of the threats they face are the results of our actions. It was our military attacks against the nations these people flee, our fomentation of coups, our sponsorship of dictators and death squads in their home countries that destabilized their countries, made them into perpetual warzones run by criminals. We unleashed horrible violence against these people, and in the aftermath, years later, we behave as though blameless for their suffering and respond with further violence when they come to us for help.
So one thing we could do from here on would be to stay the fuck out of the affairs of our southern neighbors and all other countries, as pertains to military and economic interference. We can’t undo the initial horrors we wrought, but we can resist the temptation to make the same mistakes by, say, staying the fuck away from Venezuela and Cuba. Any time our government and military involve themselves in South and Central American countries, we make matters monumentally worse. So stop.
There would also be justice in the US, as well as the former colonizing powers of Europe, funding social welfare, education, agriculture and infrastructure building programs in the many Central and South American countries that were for centuries raped and ransacked for all they were worth. The people of many African nations are likewise deserving of such compensation for the obscene profits made at their expense. This may seem tangential to the topic of immigration, but only if you’re stupid. Peoples of the global south have long been the victims of the greed creeping from us north of the equator. If we hadn’t continually so destroyed their lands and cultures, and absconded with their resource wealth, many would not now be in the predicament of needing to flee to the wealthier nations that profited from the crimes against them. Imagine if I took every bit of food from your house, then refused to invite you over for dinner; then burned down your house, and refused to let you crash on my couch; and then built a fence around my yard so you wouldn’t keep bothering me about stealing your food and burning down your house, threatening to shoot you if you come any closer.
Work to alleviate some of the damage done in people’s home countries and they’ll be less incentivised to rush to yours. And try having a bit of goddamn empathy. Wear a stranger’s shoes. Because, honestly, how fucked up must a person’s country be that their only hope is to come to this fucked up country? It shouldn’t be that hard to imagine, actually, because in all likelihood it will eventually happen here. As the wealth gap spreads exponentially and state violence further increases, there will be uprisings and riots in this country. Many will fight and die in battles between the poor and the oligarch’s hired militias, and many will flee the chaos and devastation of their fighting. They will, like refugees now, need to flee to somewhere safer. Like refugees now, they’ll probably head north. The difference will be that Canada never fucked us over, so they won’t owe us anything.
Next, how about we go about the wild idea of documenting undocumenting immigrants. If the problem is in fact that we don’t know who they are or whether they should be here. Do that. Instead of persecuting, abusing and deporting them indiscriminately, simply make it easy to keep track of them by giving them status and some form of credentials in this country.
When a person comes into the country, take their name and other pertinent details, slap it on a photo ID card. If they come with a form of ID from their home country, all the more expedient. Easy verification. It’s not as though the technology isn’t there. I can monitor the step by step progress of shit I order online from China. This shouldn’t be that much more difficult. Get their information. Maybe keep them under surveillance if they come completely empty-handed. Keep a record on file. Have them check in to an office or submit to regular monitoring. There, documented. And regulated. Plenty of native born US citizens, of far more criminal and shady inclinations, go around with less scrutiny and fewer credentials.
If you’re the untrusting and paranoid type, we can lay your suspicious mind to rest by having non-naturalized immigrants wear GPS trackable bracelet or anklet tags. If we can justify the $10-$20 expense per cat or set of keys, we can justify the cost for humans. It could be considered an undue inconvenience and a violation of privacy, but it’s a hell of a lot better than packing them into cold, fluorescent disease traps. It would certainly be more ethical to have children stay in the care of their parents in a safe place with tracking tags on their wrists than it is to kidnap and throw them in cages where they’re forced to spend weeks being underfed and unwashed, their old clothes growing progressively foul and crusty with spilled food, snot and vomit. Also, much cheaper than the $775 per child we’re paying daily as taxpayers to enforce this perverse and malicious treatment. But that would mean a cut to the private prison industry’s profits. And heaven forfend.
If your suspicions are still such that you fear they’ll simply remove or disable the tracking tags, we could always have them tattooed with a barcode or serial number.
Don’t take that last suggestion seriously.