The United States should embrace its immigrants, not abuse them

The United States should embrace its immigrants, not abuse them

The United States should embrace its immigrants, not abuse them
November 04
11:41 2018

Those who immigrate to the U.S. illegally are one dimensional in many American minds: A lot of citizens find it hard to look past their illegal crossings into the U.S. to be able to see them as people needing help, but illegal entry should not bar them from humane treatment.

The U.S. Border Patrol’s “Prevention Through Deterrence” program from the ‘90s was the government’s way of stopping people from entering the country illegally. This is not what the program actually does, or ever really did for that matter. The program simply allows Border Patrol to use the desert and mountains as a weapon to kill tens of thousands of would-be migrants every year, according to The Guardian.

Before the deterrence program, Border Patrol tried apprehending immigrants after they already jumped the border and scrambled inside Arizona. This caused issues with legal citizens who were constantly harassed to show their papers and prove their legal status. To solve this problem, Border Patrol decided to stop those without permission before they had a chance to cross the border into the U.S.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) published a report in 1997 stating deaths of people immigrating illegally will increase as enforcement in urban areas force them into the desert and mountainous regions. The same report uses data about their deaths to determine how effective the government’s strategy is at “deterring illegal entry” along the southwest border.

The GAO’s report is in direct opposition to a claim in a 2010 Congress report that says the deterrence method had spurred “unintended” consequences of increasing fatalities due to unauthorized migrants not carrying enough water. It’s especially interesting that Congress specifically references water as a contributing cause to migrant deaths, as it is only one of many more critical factors.

Those who cross the U.S.-Mexico border face muggings, rape, disease and harsh weather along with extreme thirst. Perhaps if they were not pushed from populated cities into the desert and mountains, their survival rates would increase. But I also don’t think the blame for that shift belongs solely on the government’s shoulders.

There is a very real problem with illegal immigration and the effects of it. Taxes, government aid and American security are all important issues to think about when it comes to turning a blind eye to immigration. None of these issues, however, consider how those who cross the U.S.-Mexico border would fare if they were thought of as refugees instead of migrants.

Refugees get more protected status than other displaced people, like migrants and asylum-seekers. The designations are very similar but not quite the same to the government, which prefers some over others.

A refugee is someone who fears persecution in their home country because of their race, religion, political orientation, nationality or belonging to a certain social group. They are thought to need help and protection and are forced to relocate from their homes. Migrants, however, are perceived to have some degree of choice — they leave because of economic reasons and for personal convenience.

The way governments define and treat migrants and refugees mirrors the way society sees them. U.S. citizens don’t imagine immigrants from Mexico as needing our help, but think about how money can provide food, clothing, shelter and other basic human necessities. Without those fundamentals, is there really any choice involved in seeking help elsewhere?

I think it’s easier for the culture to ignore inhumane treatment of Mexican immigrants because we aren’t exposed to it. If people living near the Arizona desert stumbled across badly decomposed bodies of migrant children like researchers, Border Patrol and other migrants do, I don’t think they’d be so quick to allow deadly immigration patrol tactics to continue.

The law is the law and people who do not follow it are justly subject to consequences. But for many laws, there comes a time when they need to be changed. No laws are made to last forever — as people and customs evolve, so should they.

Now is a time for U.S. citizens to wake up and see the injustices we’ve allowed for the sake of convenience and apathy. We have to consider all the victims we’ve neglected and now give them the fair treatment and attention they deserve.

Featured Illustration: Chelsea Tolin

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Brianna Adams

Brianna Adams

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