Like Real People Do

I remember being a kid and losing my mom in our town’s Wal-Mart. When you consider the fact that, prior to them building the Super Wal-Mart, Stoughton’s Wal-Mart was the smallest in the entire nation, it is actually pretty impressive that I managed to lose my mom between the sewing notions and the chocolate milk.

But I did, and when that happened, it was terrifying. My heartbeat would pick up. I’d start sweating and get a little shaky. I would start imagining horrible, awful scenarios in which I never saw my mom again. And this is what would happen when I lost her in our small town’s small Wal-Mart.

I absolutely cannot imagine losing my parents, being forcibly ripped from them, in a strange place, by strange people who don’t speak my language, without ever knowing if I would see them again.

So why are people still risking apprehension and separation of their family? According to one migrant, “You don’t migrate now in search of the American dream, you go for your life.”

That’s the thing. A lot of the families at our borders are asylum seekers, those who are fleeing countries with some of the highest murder rates. According to a special report by the American Immigration Council, tens of thousands of immigrants are people fleeing from the extreme violence of the Northern Triangle–El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala. According to the report, people who have been victimized in their home countries are those likely to risk immigrating to the United States.

Crime Victimization and Migration Intentions, 2014

graph courtesy of American Immigration Council

Unfortunately, the help that many asylum seekers are hoping for is hard to find. According to a Washington Post article, “U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers have been turning back asylum seekers, most from Central America, for several weeks at El Paso and other ports of entry on the Mexican border.” Serbando Pineda Hernandez and his 15-year-old son, Riquelmer, who are fleeing gang violence in Guatemala, have tried to apply for asylum nine times in less than two weeks, only to be turned away and denied each time.

So, y’know, before throwing condemnation around maybe practice a little empathy. These families are doing what they are doing in order to keep their family safe. They’re risking their lives in order to actually have a life. They are trying to survive and give their children the best possible chances while dealing with circumstances I cannot even imagine.

The true issues at the border have been bulldozed by Donald Trump’s rhetoric. It isn’t about keeping murderers and rapists out. It isn’t about not following the rules. It is, in the words of Margaret Reganabout the tragic journeys of the migrants, and about what happens when the wretched of the earth are criminalized for their poverty, when armed agents of the state can wrench mothers from their babies, when people risk dying in order to live.”


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