Immigration: “We Are Better Than This”

From a Google Image Search – The Cut

Immigration: “We Are Better Than This”

A warehouse full of children. An air conditioned warehouse full of children with concrete floors, no beds, only two scratchy wool blankets. An air conditioned warehouse full of cold, anxious children with too few adults to care for them – children sleeping on concrete floors who have not been given clean clothing or a chance to shower or even a bar of soap, a towel, and a toothbrush. Does any of this sound like America to you? But it is happening in America. It is happening right now in America.

We have a President who has told us that the people coming across our southern border are animals. Do you believe that he is telling the truth? Are these people dangerous? Are they less than human? Why are they coming? The President thinks it is a planned challenge to his immigration policies, that Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador (the Northern Triangle countries) are “pranking” him somehow. Reporters who have visited these three nations tell a different story however. They tell a story about a once fertile triangle of farm land shared by these three nations. They tell us that the land is no longer fertile because the rainfall, once predictable, is now erratic. There are long periods of dry weather in recent years followed by too much rain all at once. This disruption in the usual water cycle could be temporary, but it could be due to climate change. The area is also threatened by gangs of men who snatch girls for trafficking purposes or for their own use and who snatch young men to increase memberships. These gangs are at war with each other and innocent citizens are killed in the ensuing violence. 

People usually love the country they were born in. They don’t want to leave it. If large numbers of people are migrating from one country to another country far away there is always a reason for it. People migrate when their home nation cannot offer enough food, or enough safety, or any opportunities for a better life. People of means may travel out of a sense of adventure, or to broaden their experiences, to enjoy other cultures and the beauty of foreign places. However, unless they stumble into a place they know is unstable and hostile, tourists do not end up sleeping in warehouses with concrete floors. And neither should people who are seeking asylum from a nation that no longer offers a viable life to its people. 

We cannot solve problems that arise from climate change, especially with an administration in charge of America that does not believe in climate change. But offering aid to a nation in need is something that we do know how to do. We cannot get rid of local gangs. We are not even doing well with keeping our own gangs under control. But we do know that when people are offered opportunities to learn a trade or get a college degree and find employment violence tends to decrease and the influence of gangs declines.  Aid can also be perceived to be nation building, can be seen as imperialistic interference done for personal gain rather than altruism, so the way help is offered matters. While giving aid it is not polite to see what resources you can steal from a nation that is suffering.

If one way to tackle the flow of migrants is to improve the conditions in the home nations, another way is to streamline our procedures for handling migration when it happens. Denying migrants access to the laws that govern immigration does not seem to stop people from immigrating. Separating children from parents does not seem to discourage the flow of immigration. Denying children showers and soap and toothbrushes may make them miserable but it doesn’t make them disappear (unless they die). Is that the plan? To let squalor do its work. Is that a plan Americans can live with?

“We are better than this.” Whenever I listen to panels of experts talk on my news channel (MSNBC) someone always says this. We can do better than taking children who came here with a parent or who have a contact who is a relative already in America, than housing them in a cold soulless shelter, leaving them in wet diapers and dirty clothing, allowing them to live with lice, and sending them to bed hungry with only a scratchy blanket for company. We are America. We are organized. We are humane. We are a can-do nation. If the system is overwhelmed then hire more people. Warehouse supplies, not people. Better yet, don’t detain children at all. Set to work immediately getting them to their destination if they have one, or finding them a family to act as a temporary sponsor. 

What the President would like to do is immediately deport them, but the law says they have a right to a hearing. He says that if they are released with a hearing date they will not return. Statistics say that the return rate is really good for adults. How do you give a hearing to a toddler who may be nonverbal? Applying the same practices for children that we have for adults makes no sense. HHS (Housing and Human Services) is full of experts in the care of displaced children. They should be called upon to suggest ways to handle minors separated from parents or guardians. Many experts have been making valid suggestions without getting much attention.

The chaos we are seeing in the immigration system is due to this administration’s attempts to solve the problem by circumventing immigration laws, in other words by using approaches that are lawless, approaches for which there are no precedents and no organizational plans. Orders are given and they must be accomplished although no resources are offered to accomplish what the administration wants. If everyone is to be sent back home why aren’t they loaded immediately onto planes? Because no logistics have been designed to make this possible. So migrants seeking asylum are caught between a rock and a government-engineered hard place and they cannot solve their own dilemma. But we can. “We are better than this.”

Cycles – Migration is Normal

starlings big you tube

Our planet may be made of rock stone and other inorganic things, but it goes through its own cycles which are very organic. Magma pushes up from within the earth and sets up convection currents in the liquid “stone” under our earth’s crust. The continents sit on tectonic plates that float around (albeit very slowly) on the fluid layer underneath. We have learned this because we wanted to understand earthquakes and volcanoes. We understand this much better than we once did.  It has saved a lot of humans from being sacrificed to the gods of the volcano. We want to be able to predict these movements and their size but our technology so far is not terribly reliable. We are even further from being able to control these forces since they are superhuman in scale.

Then there is the water cycle, so essential to life if we are to live anywhere in the universe. Water evaporates, collects, fills up clouds, and is released again as precipitation. One problem we face is that the water stored in clouds is not always released in the same place where it was picked up. Water pick up and release patterns do stay predictable for a while. Lately, not so much. Because of all that climate change (which cannot be named) old patterns of pick up and release are changing and that means people who live in an area that once had enough water to survive, may find that it no longer rains on them at all. Even as our polar ice melts and open water occupies more space at the poles, water cycles are changed by this evidence of earth’s warming. We also have wind cycles, weather cycles, solar flare cycles, and all of these cycles and more would continue without a human presence on the earth.

People and animals, the organic substances that occupy earth, also have cycles of movement. Animals migrate, some further than others, and people migrate. People have always migrated. They may migrate because some brave soul  visits nearby areas and reports that conditions are better over yonder. They may have to move because their land no longer produces reliable crops, perhaps due to a changing water cycle. They may move because aggressive people from a neighboring area attack and force them to move or be subjugated. Sometimes human migrations are small and are assimilated without difficulty. Large migrations of people have always been disruptive.

We are seeing large migrations of people in the 21stcentury for a number of reasons. Most prominent are movements because we are living in a time of political upheaval. America attacked a nation (for no good reason) and stirred up a bee’s nest of historic animosities. The human cost has been terrible, but would the Middle East have been poked eventually by some other provocative action. Probably.

Humans in Europe and America have been trying to prepare for possible ecological changes by trying to equalize resources around the planet thus allowing populations to stay put and deal with the changes that may come. Looking ahead to 9 billion people on the planet has people trying to make sure that everyone can live securely and do it in place, that no human on earth will have to starve, or drink contaminated water (disease will be a terrible enemy on a crowded earth). Some people may not ever be able to survive if they stay where they are. Some people could survive quite easily if brutal thugs were not making their lives a misery. There are many organizations that are trying to produce conditions that are livable all around the world in order to promote stability.

This is an age when there are some pretty enormous migrations. We make a distinction between immigrants and asylum-seekers, but almost all immigrants are seeking better circumstances or better opportunities and as such most immigrants are actually refugees. There are ex-pats who choose to live in lands where they were not born, but this is a choice and is not a mass movement. Political upheavals are responsible for most of today’s mass migrations. People fear for their lives and the lives of their children. The proof that they are “running scared” is apparent in the risks they take to get away from the place they once considered home.

If we want some stability in the world, clearly the correct path is not to turn our governments over to strong men who are willing to separate parents and their children, or perhaps let them die wandering around dangerous lands. First of all, things are not that desperate, and second, our emotions and our souls will suffer too much damage if humans let this happen. But we do not want to be overrun by panicked peoples and let them take away our hard-won stability. What do you do when there is “no room at the inn”?

Well we could keep doing what we’re doing. We could get angry, get stubborn and proclaim, “not in my country”, “none of you are welcome here”. We could turn them away but in the case of Europe there is really no place for them to go. In the case of America, there really isn’t either. People don’t leave their homes lightly. There are always reasons. If (whisper) climate change isreal, as those of us who are not in denial believe, more places on earth may become uninhabitable which will really rev up migration.

Without a plan, since we can see that this is an age of upheaval and the movement of people, we get the chaos, fear, anger and sadness that we are experiencing right now. Clearly some planning might be in order. In 2015 I wrote “We Need a Refugee Plan” and recommended that we set up refugee villages in key places where immigrants can pick a destination, train for a trade/profession, or get recertified in a trade/profession for which they have already trained in their own nations, learn the language of their future home and get their bearings. Schooling would be provided and housing, health care, work and sustenance. Perhaps these “villages” could be organized by future destination so that children were also schooled in the language they would be using. They may sound like the camps Trump is making, but they would not be prisons and the goal would not be deportation.

Call to Action

Perhaps you, my reader, have a plan for organizing migrations so that they are less subject to cruelty and so that they are less disruptive. If so write it out, set it down. Do it as a comment on my article or write a free-standing article. Why do we continue to just let things happen, willy-nilly? Are plans bad? That depends on the plan. After watching the plans of Orban in Hungary and Trump in America, not planning is much, much worse. Please don’t bother to show the world your ignorance by posting any plan that sounds remotely inhumane.