The crisis is not “just” a family crisis and the tragic results do not affect only the families who have endured forced separation. This is a national crisis and its results will reverberate and affect the United States forever.
The new Executive Order, which purports to end that forced separation, does not change what has happened under the auspices of the government of the USA. This is not simply a question of “secure” borders — every nation has the right to control its space.
Every nation also has a right to have its laws obeyed – and the Rule of Law is paramount to the essence of the United States and the Dream that is America. The Rule of Law requires that the Law does not vary with the administration and that no person or party is above the Law. Our right to our own self-determination and “secure” borders depends on the definition of “security” and the methods used to “secure” those borders.
The important thing is to do no harm – this is part of religious teachings, as well as part of the Hippocratic Oath. Harm has been done – harm that cannot be totally repaired. There is, of course, the harm to the children who will always remember their feelings of loss and fear, regardless of what happens to them in the future. There is also the harm to the standing and reputation of the United States, both in the world and in the deepest hearts of Americans. The harm is that, for however brief a time, the United States engaged in forced separation of families and incarceration of children (or whatever term you want to use) – and THAT is against everything the USA has ever stood for and everything the “American Dream” has ever meant, both to Americans and to the world. It DOES matter that the world has always looked to America as what Ronald Reagan called the “shining city on a hill” — talking about those who visit Washington, D.C., he said “… visitors to that city on the Potomac do not come as white or black, red or yellow; they are not Jews or Christians; conservatives or liberals; or Democrats or Republicans. They are Americans awed by what has gone before, proud of what for them is still…a shining city on a hill.” He understood that the American Dream is important, not only to Americans of all persuasions, but also to “many other millions in the world” … he understood that the world – the entire world and all its people – need an idea, an Ideal, like America to give hope to youth and a vision for the future.
Bishop Desmond Tutu has said, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” In different words, Brandon Horan [@brandon_r_horan] has said, “When you see innocent kids being put in tents sleeping on floor after getting ripped from their parents and your response is ‘Did they come here legally?’, then we don’t have a difference in political opinion. We have a difference in morality.” They are both saying the same thing – that this is NOT the action of a country we deem to be the moral compass of the Western world.
Why do we think that once we arrived – as immigrants – we own the land and can keep others out? Unless your lineage in 100% Native American, YOUR family is an immigrant family. They came here to escape the tyrannies we are now experiencing…and further tyrannies we fear. This arrogance comes from a feeling that there is a difference between “legal” and “illegal” immigration – but the difference is only because those in power have, from time to time, changing the rules to “filter out” the feared minority of the time. If you study the history of the immigration laws of the United States, you will find that those laws have been focused, in turn, on different nationalities – none of them from “white” countries. The immigration system has a racist component of which the ordinary citizen is largely unaware. People are not “legal” or “illegal” – it’s the viewpoint of the powerful which changes the rules.
The United States has, it is true, waged war on innocents in the past: our history includes the disgrace of slavery, the terrorism and prejudice of “Jim Crow” laws, the near-genocide and continuing difficulties of the indigenous population of this land, the stain of the Japanese-American concentration camps of World War II. These instances are now generally viewed with distaste and shame…and the separation of families is and will be such a shameful episode.
The continuing hostilities and aggressions being inflicted upon those who seek the American Dream will continue to plague our present and our future until we regain our national essence and realize that there is no such thing as an “illegal person” and we view refugees and asylum-seekers with compassion.