Bringing Humanity Back

I don’t argue with the idea that maybe we need better ways to monitor/protect our southern border to prevent undocumented immigrants from coming over. I get that, I really do. Especially living in Alabama. That’s not a debate I jump in on unless it involves building a wall, because I will NOT stand for that ridiculous expense. No way.

BUT.

I do feel like I need to bring the humanity back to the people living here illegally. I cringe at discussions of people in my community like they’re vicious animals or hopeless criminals. Some of the discussions I’m seeing indicate people have stopped thinking deeper than the surface “CRIMINAL!” label of their undocumented neighbors.

I keep seeing phrases like, “Just come over here the right way like millions of others do.” Or, “There are legal ways to become citizens, do that.” And I just feel like it demonstrates a lack of understanding out our undocumented immigrants from South of our border end up here.

First of all, many are uneducated and poor and living in crime-riddled communities or in war-torn countries. The “right channels” that people from other countries use to get here, usually involve college admissions or job applications. Or maybe travel visas. There is no way our poorest neighbors to the South can find any foothold that “right channel” way. But many are desperate, many have family already here, many know FOR A FACT that if they can get here and get to a community of Mexicans or Latinos (depending on their country of origin) they will be exponentially safer. And many have chosen that path instead of the “legal” path of just staying in put where they’ll die crime or in poverty. Across our border they see hope. They see safety. They see a future.

So of course they come over illegally.

You would too.

So that’s how many have gotten here…a decade ago in some cases. Many have had children here who are citizens. Or, many came over with small babies in tow, babies who are now in high school and know no other culture but ours. Many fear being deported (or worse, stuck indefinitely in some sort of ICE detention center) so they stay hidden. They don’t seek medical assistance if they’re sick and they don’t report crimes.

These are the undocument immigrants that people are thinking of when creating Sanctuary Cities. They are basically saying, “We know you’re here and you’re undocumented but – for the sake of our community as a whole – we want you to seek medical assistance and report crime. So, we won’t come after you simply for being undocumented.” And despite accusations people like #45, There’s no evidence that sanctuary cities see an increase in crime. Sanctuary cities are simply a way of saying, “We have more important things to do right now that waste resources on hunting down people who have committed no other crime than just coming here illegally to try to find a better/safer life.”

Looking at undocumented immigrants like they are criminals is being pragmatic, sure. I mean, they are, right?

But let’s look at them as HUMANS. Imagine what you would do in their shoes? If you knew someone already here who could help you get set up with a job, wouldn’t you rather come here than stay in the crime-riddled, poverty-filled, dead-end situation you’re in before? I just feel like we’ve lost our empathy when discussing undocumented immigrants in this country like they’re animals.

This is not about keeping people out, like I said, that’s a different debate. But people who have been law-abiding while they’ve been here, why are we using resources to get them out? I guess if you really wanted them to leave, the more humane thing would be to punish the people who hire them so that they don’t settle into our country as easily. But, just sending out raids to hunt them down and send them to ICE detention facilities – some who will stay there for SIX YEARS before being deported – seems contrary to the good of the community or of humanity in general.

I just think we forget to look at actual stories. Just like with “Welfare Queens” we tend to take the worst example and paint with a broad brush and assume everyone is like that worst example. And they’re not. I’m not saying there aren’t criminals and there is valid debate on what to do with undocumented immigrants – even in sanctuary cities – who commit minor crimes like driving without a license. In some states, profit was being made by jailing these people in cases of racial profiling. Others became burdens on an already burdened immigration court.

I don’t think this topic has any easy solutions, but I do think it’s important not to forget that something like 60% of undocumented immigrants have been here over a decade. They’ve escaped crime and war and poverty for 10 years and then we’re making it a priority to kick them out even if they’ve done nothing illegal after entering our country? Or at least nothing illegal not connected with being here illegally? They’re not voting no matter what #45 tells you. They’re just trying to keep their families safe and enjoy a better quality of life than they were previously destined for.

Which is really what we’re all trying to do, right?

I just don’t like humanity being ignore in any conversation. I don’t like personal stories being overlooked. Most of the people here illegally were just screwed by being born into poverty in a war or crime-riddled community. And they saw a way out. I can’t imagine a way we wouldn’t all have done the same. So I have a hard time with the judgement of these people as criminals who need to be banished when I see them more as people quietly looking for safety. I just don’t like the conversations like these people had other options to do it the “legal way” – because our “legal way” of being here legally caters to the educated and to people with money. Most of the people here illegally come here so their kids could be educated, and if their kids being a classroom with my kids teaches my children about empathy and diversity? We’re all better for it.

5 thoughts on “Bringing Humanity Back

  1. Karen says:

    Yes.

    And let’s not forget the whole “They’re taking jobs away from citizens” argument. In many cases, they’re working harder, better, and with more integrity than a lot of “citizens,” without a feeling of entitlement. (Not to mention that much of the work they do is deemed “beneath” the very ones making that argument.) For me, that argument has more holes than a colander.

  2. heidi says:

    You hit the nail on the head once again! I hope you don’t mind if I share on Facebook because that is the one place I still have friends that might benefit from reading this. I really appreciate the time you take to explain these issues to people who may not look at them the same way. You seem to be able to put into words what I cannot but would like to be able to. So, thank you.

  3. Lindsey says:

    Kim – Can I gently point something out to you? I agree with your post wholeheartedly, but you might reconsider your use of the phrase ‘illegal immigrants’ which brings up the image of criminals or people intentionally breaking the law. Particularly for the DREAMers, the preferred term is ‘undocumented immigrants’ because a person cannot be illegal.

  4. Elaine C. B. says:

    Have you seen this? It is a few years old but really put a lot of things into perspective for me. https://youtu.be/LPjzfGChGlE

    Speaking of humanity, I was once part of a Coast Guard crew that intercepted some Haitians on the ocean and repatriated them to Haiti. It was one of the most heart-breaking experiences I’ve ever had, and I’ve never forgotten it. It was my first understanding of America as a beacon of hope, how people would give up everything – even the very little they had – just for a chance at a new life in our country. One little girl had a tiny pink backpack with nothing inside it but a plain white t-shirt, a fork, and a can of tuna fish. Her mom had a plastic bag with a few clothes. And that was it. When they got back to Haiti the government (theirs, not ours) asked them a few questions about the smugglers and then gave each person a bus ticket and a few dollars, and then turned them loose.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *