Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Open the Borders

President Obama - a Democrat who the throngs of right-wing bigots defending freeloading ranchers in Nevada consider a socialist - has deported more human beings than any other previous president.  Yet those same right-wing bigots, and the masses of mildly more moderate conservatives and Republicans, still believe (or want their constituents or television viewers to believe) that Obama coddles undocumented immigrants and would like to grant amnesty to millions.  So, it doesn't appease the right and it is unpopular with a big part of the Democratic base, yet Obama continues to implement harsh immigration policies – policies that have a brutal impact on hundreds of thousands of people every year.  Sadly, it is very possible that Republican leadership would try to outdo this administration, because why let a Democrat beat them on this issue.  It is mind boggling.  We ought to be moving in the opposite direction.

In recent months, thousands more kids have been showing up at our southern border than in previous years, many fleeing Central America.  Obama has announced more detention facilities as a response, even though there are (at least) 250 facilities holding immigrants and the U.S. government detains hundreds of thousands of them in those facilities each year.  In the meantime, children are being held in crowded, unsanitary conditions in Texas, while in other parts of the country they are putting them in makeshift facilities at military bases.  Overwhelmed in Texas, where most of these kids are showing up, they are flying hundreds of mostly "families with young children" to other parts of the country "for processing."

The administration will also speed up legal processes so that these children can be sent away more quickly; this in a system already defined by coercive practices and a lack of due process. 

Not everyone is "lucky" enough to get caught up in this horrible system.  Many perish as they attempt to bypass the Border Patrol, walking miles in extreme heat or cold with little available food or water; or traveling in a cargo container or in a rail car, dealing again with extreme temperatures, but also with a lack of oxygen.  We're now learning how many of these people, when their bodies are found, are dealt with in the United States:  Their bodies may end up in trash bags buried in a mass grave.

We're the richest, most powerful nation on the planet (and in the history of humankind).  This is the 21st century.  And for some reason we are building walls, installing fences, using drones, and further militarizing our borders, with calls for even more.  We are locking up thousands of people for the crime of not being born here.  We are flying people out of this country to destinations all around the world, forcing them to live somewhere else, even when those people have lived here for most of their lives, and even when those people have children, or parents, or partners here.  And refugees are dying along our Southern border because of these backward policies.

The media often describes all of this as our immigration system being "overwhelmed," which suggests that there is either no solution or that the solution lies in bolstering or modifying the current practices – more walls, more fences, more enforcement, less due process, more border patrol officers, etc.  But there is a solution worth trying.  One that is morally just and may not lead to the dire consequences imagined by the fear mongering anti-immigrant crowd.  We can move towards more open borders.  Why be overwhelmed?  It's liberating to think it and, not coincidentally, it happens to be a move towards liberation for the millions of people who need to, or choose to, travel across borders.

There may be practical reasons why we shouldn't or can't simply open the borders over night (though I'd be willing to try it), but regardless, fewer restrictions on travel should be our goal, not more restrictions.  Otherwise we are just moving more and more towards an unstable and cruel situation: a globalized world, where communication and capital can easily fly across borders, but where human beings are divided by higher walls and more authorities with weapons.  We should be calling for more open borders and rejecting Washington's games of illusory paths towards citizenship, more border security, and more deportations.  The alternative is unacceptable.