Let me start by saying this: I do believe that a country needs to have control and protection at their borders; their people’s safety must come first after all. However, differing from President Donald Trump’s opinion, not all immigrants are rapists and murderers.
With that being said, I also must admit that I feel like such a hypocrite for writing this from the comfort of my own home, while I drink my coffee and write on my own laptop. My dad is a lawyer and my mom went to business school. I’m about to graduate from law school. I am very lucky to be in the situation I am where, even though I’m not rich and live a luxurious life, I’m safe. I don’t go days without food. I have a roof over my head. Both my parents are educated people and I did get an education as well. And even with all that, I’m not always grateful. I’m currently living in Mexico, but I’ll soon be moving back to the States without any kind of trouble because I can legally live in both countries. So yes, I do feel a little hypocrite writing about this without having the slightest idea of what these people are going through. But my desire to help and the anger I feel whenever I see injustice compensates for it, doesn’t it?
My parents taught me since I was a little girl that before jumping into a discussion, before forming an argument, I need to be informed. So I always try to read as many articles as I can, from every point of view, before forming my own opinion. Also, as a law student, I learned that in cases like this one is very important to check the laws and legal procedures of the country in question. Whether we like it or not, the law is there for a reason, and if we dedicate at least five minutes to read it and interpret it, we could easily understand why the authority makes certain decisions or actions. So, I did a little research of my own and here are the basics to understand how the “asylum process” works in the US:
- You can apply for asylum if you have experienced persecution in your home country or if you have a well-founded fear of persecution if you return there. This persecution can include discrimination, harassment, torture, unjust imprisoment, etc. (basically any other type of harm) BUT the persecution must be based on one of these five grounds: religion, race, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group.
- While a refugee must contact the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) or a US Embassy or consulate, a person looking for asylum must be PHYSICALLY present in the United States (it’s literally the STEP ONE in the Affirmative Asylum Process), and unless they had already gone through the process and were found ineligible for asylum or were apprehended in the US or at the border without proper documentation, they should not be detained by ICE. They can also live in the United States while their application is pending before USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services).
- The “zero tolerance” policy. This policy basically says that anyone crossing the border illegally, will be referred for federal criminal prosecution (without even respecting the process of those seeking asylum). In the words of Jeff Sessions (Attorney General from 2017 to 2018) “If you are smuggling a child then we will prosecute you, and that child will be separated from you as required by law. If you don’t like that, then don’t smuggle children over our border.”
As I try to understand this, I know that it’s all about politics. I know that the President was trying to push the Democratic party to change the immigration laws, and then he tried to blame them for the family separations. Believe me, I know how “political pressure” works. I would like to believe that those politicians were worried about the kids, because some of them could’ve been kidnapped or just taken to be used as a free pass to the States (because who would deny asylum to a parent and their kid running from violence, right?) and that’s why they were being separated for further investigation. I know that many criminals, and just “bad people” took advantage of the Central American migrant caravans. I know because I saw them (they had to go through Mexico first, remember?), and it is sad to see that because of a few people with bad intentions, entire families are now suffering. But nothing should distract authorities from what SHOULD be their number one priority: the kids.
They are being separated from their parents, in a country they don’t know, with people speaking a language they do not speak. They don’t have diapers, they are being forced to sleep on the floor, some of them were locked up in cages or cells; some of these kids are sick. Five have died in U.S. Border Patrol custody.
As I’m writing this, I can’t help but look at my copy of the book Mein Kampf (My Struggle), that in case you don’t know, it’s an autobiography written by Adolf Hitler himself in 1925. The picture of the man keeps looking at me from across the room with those sad but full of hatred eyes. I like to read about history (especially the dark part of it) every now and then because it reminds me that “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”. And it makes me wonder, are we about to repeat that part of history? Are we already repeating it?
Now, if you are one of those people that say: “well, they had it coming. They were warned that this was going to happen”. These people come from places where they have NO TV AND NO RADIO. THEY KNOW NOTHING about the outside world. Most of these people have had no education at all, and I’m pretty sure some of them can barely read and write, let alone go on the internet and do the research I did about all the process.
I just read the news about a father from El Slavador who drowned at the Rio Grande last Sunday. His daughter, who was almost 2 years old, drowned with him. My mind can’t really understand why a father and a mother would put the life of their little girl in danger. I can’t understand it because I know that, no matter how hard the situation would be, my parents would never do that. But again, I am in a different situation. I can just look at the picture of their bodies and try to understand. Try and try and try. So if you’re not walking in their shoes, you have no right to say “build the wall”. If you’re lucky enough to watch your kids while they sleep, in the safety of your own home; if you’re lucky enough to drive them to school everyday and help with their homework, and if you’re lucky enough to be able to take them to the doctor when they’re sick, please don’t say they deserved to die. If you don’t have to worry about going to a different country just to get some food (just do a little research on Venezuela and how they have NO FOOD), then please don’t say they should go back to where they came from. And if you’re lucky enough to sit on your couch to watch the news, and complain about all those people coming to “take your jobs”; if you’re able to read this because you have access to the internet, please, just don’t say a thing. We are in no position to judge them. To hate them. We have no right to decide whether they live or die. Because they are dying. No one would ever leave their home, risk their kids’ lives, just because they want to “take” your jobs. We can try but we will never understand; especially not a privileged man, who has been rich his entire life and is now the “leader” of an entire nation. He just can’t.
A while ago I was writing about my experience living in the US for the first time. Here’s an excerpt of what I wrote that I really want to share on this post:
“Can you imagine being stripped from your own identity? Maybe you can, if you’re considered a minority. Immigrants in the States are constantly overlooked and underrated. Why is it that people never stop to listen to others’ stories? What happens when you really look at someone, and not just through them? You look into their eyes and you can almost see their fears, their sadness. You can almost see who they were before by a twist of faith, they ended up in a completely different world. If you look into their eyes you can almost miss their families. You can almost mourn the loved ones they lost because of the violence they ran from. You can almost feel the hunger they had to go through to get here. If you really look at them, you can almost touch their dreams, and you’ll see then, they are not so different from yours.”
And now, if you’ve read this entire post I thank you from the bottom of my heart and I ask YOU: if you were able to look at those kids in the eyes, what you think you would feel?