some days, yes,
some days, no.
Some days I was too ill
with the fever to go.
Some days the teacher couldn’t come
because of the men with guns.
But on the good days,
the teacher might arrive with a piece of chalk
and maybe even a book.
Mostly he would help us
learn English words,
so we would be ready
to leave the camp someday.
from: Home of the Brave
written by Katherine Applegate
Feiwel & Friends/Holtzbrinck, 2007
In the years surrounding the turn of the last century, hordes of people entered the United States through many ports including Ellis Island, Baltimore, and San Francisco.
One year ago, (July 10, 2018) I wrote in this space about new rules regarding immigration and the havoc they were bringing. International laws and national laws, long-standing precedents, even civilized behavior have been thrown to the four winds.
Trump’s wall-building mania, his executive orders, his policy changes have resulted in confusion, even chaos, in ever widening ripples. Each tweet after tweet thrown out the window of the Oval Office radiates dissension, discord, and devision.
In 2017, he tried to block DACA. Federal courts stopped him, so far.
In 2018, “zero tolerance” became official. Parents and children were separated at our southern border. A lawsuit prompted a federal judge in San Diego to rule overnight that families must be reunited within 30 days. That would have been August 26, 2018. The government says almost all families have been reunited. No one is really sure. Homeland Security detains the parents, and sometimes deports them. Health and Human Services takes care of the kids, sorta. The fact of family separation is a big, ugly problem. The bigger, uglier problem is the lack of communication between the agencies. I think lots and lots of children are still “lost.”
Just this year, 2019, the president tried to cancel Temporary Protected Status for people living in the United States, mainly from countries in the Middle East and Central America. The Secretary of Homeland Security can grant TPS to “eligible foreign born individuals, who are unable to return home safely due to conditions or circumstances preventing their country from adequately handling the return.” https://immigrationforum.org/article/fact-sheet-temporary-protected-status/ In March of this year, The Department of Homeland Security issued a notice in the Federal Register stating that even though the preliminary injunction is in place, people with TPS will be able to retain their status and work permits through January 2, 2020.
But zero-tolerance continues. A recent tweet stated U.S. immigration agents will soon “begin the process of removing the millions of illegal aliens who have illicitly found their way into the United States.”
In April, 2019, acting ICE director Ronald Vitiello and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen were fired. They dared to criticize the policy.
Now Mark A. Morgan is acting director of ICE. Kevin K. McAleenan is acting Secretary of Homeland Security. (You can see my take on all the temporary positions held in this administration in my post last month, “Who’s Minding the Store?”)
Yesterday’s (June 24, 2019) announced decision to back down for two weeks on that removal process only adds to the confusion. Homeland Security officials have expressed concerns that families could inadvertently become separated as a result.
People, including families who arrive at the U.S. border, are being depicted as “illegal immigrants.” In reality, crossing an international border for asylum is not illegal and an asylum seeker’s case must be heard, according to U.S. and international law. https://www.rescue.org/article/migrants-asylum-seekers-refugees-and-immigrants-whats-difference
It was a different time in a different age in a seemingly different country when my grandparents were lucky and smart enough to leave the dangers of their homes and seek a better life for their descendants. Leaving everything they knew, even the danger, was hard. Traveling was hard. Re-settling and everything that entailed was hard.
In case you haven’t seen this for a while, Emma Lazarus wrote her famous poem about the Statue of Liberty in 1883. It was cast onto a bronze plaque and mounted inside the pedestal's lower level in 1903, the same year my grandmother was born. She arrived in Baltimore three years later.
The New Colossus
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
I try to make sure my kids and grandkids understand the difficulties, hardships, and sacrifices my grandparents made, not only for themselves, but for me and my own grandchildren who they only dreamed about.
--stay curious! (and compassionate)