There’s a lot of misunderstanding lately regarding the immigration issue at our border. Now, to be clear, that’s all I’m focusing on here. I’m not talking about immigration as a whole, or immigrants who already reside here, or Green Cards, or anything else. Just what has been in the news the last couple of weeks.
The term “illegal” is being thrown out left and right, and I believe that’s what has been the most misleading. For example, when you hear the phrase “crossing the border illegally,” what do you think? Probably a truck stuffed with people trying to sneak into the country, right? Or tunnels? Or through unsupervised locations?
The truth is, almost all (91 percent, according to MSNBC’s Chris Hayes) of the immigrants being detained are trying to enter the U.S. for the first time—and they’re being arrested at our Port of Entry, the LEGAL location one must enter the country.
So why are they being arrested? How is this an “illegal” attempt to enter America?
Simply put: Because they do not have the proper documentation to enter.
Now I ask, without looking it up, do YOU know what one must do if they are seeking asylum in the United States? I didn’t, and I’ll bet you didn’t either. So here it is, according to the Official Website of the Department of Homeland Security.
Did you read it? ALL of it? Did it make sense to you? Now imagine that you are an immigrant with the equivalent of an elementary school education. Think you’ll understand it? (For that matter, think you even have the internet needed to read such a document?) These people do not understand what they need to do in order to legally apply for proper entry into this country. All they know is that their lives—their children’s lives—are in literal danger every second where they currently live.
So they come here looking for help. For safety. These people know that there’s a good chance they will die on the trek here, but they are SO desperate to escape the violence that they’re willing to accept that risk.
In previous years, these people would still be arrested at the border. Technically, they broke the law. They didn’t realize they were breaking a law, but they did. I can be arrested for breaking a law, even if I’m not aware of that law. And yes, their children would be removed from them. However, during their detainment, they would be matched with a case worker. This case worker would explain to them what they SHOULD have done before entering this country and what they NEEDED to do moving forward. In essence, they would teach these immigrants. After no more than three days, the immigrant would stand before a judge and explain why they were seeking asylum. From there, they would either be granted a BRIEF asylum, or they would be denied and deported. In BOTH cases, they were reunited with their children. Within three days. (*Side note: If they were granted a brief asylum, they would continue working/checking in with their case worker until a more formal trial could take place—often times months later as our system is so slow.*)
All of that changed with our current administration. This “zero-tolerance policy” means that if an immigrant does not follow the information linked above to a T, they can and will be arrested and prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Children are still being separated from their parents, but now they’re being shipped all over the country and kept from their parents for months. MONTHS. Why? Because now, instead of holding the parents for 2-3 days, we’re holding them indefinitely.
Think about that. We are taking people who don’t understand the correct process of entry, calling them criminals, and holding them indefinitely—while sending their children God-knows where.
One argument that I’ve seen a lot is that if I were to be arrested, I would be detained and my children removed from my care. But…that’s not completely true, is it?
If I get arrested, I sit there for 2-3 days (max) while my lawyer explains what I need to do moving forward. Then I stand before a judge, who decides my bail. Upon posting bail, I am allowed to return to my family until a more formal trial occurs. I do not sit in a prison cell indefinitely.
THIS is what’s happening right now at our borders. And some of you are calling them “criminals.” You’re saying that they’re getting what they deserve. That they should have left their children behind or simply not tried to come here in the first place. Which tells me either you don’t understand what’s actually happening—in which case, I hope you do now—or you’re just that cold—in which case, shame on you. This isn’t a left or right issue. This is about human decency and morality. And quite frankly, I’m sick and tired of seeing so little of that from people who like to call this country “great.”
Great people do not lack morality. They model it.