By Ruth Gadebusch
Almost as regular as clockwork, another vehicle filled with people in desperate straits is found in one of our southern border areas. They are packed in with no provisions, be it food and water, waste disposal or space for any comfort whatsoever. These are humans just like us but who have scrounged and saved every penny they could gather hoping to find a better life for themselves and their families.
Some are escaping threats to their lives. Others are looking for sustainable economic survival. In other words, escape from the poverty of insufficient food, clothing and housing. By and large, they are not coming here to exploit our riches for their selfish enhancement. It is survival, pure and simple. Still, in the current political climate, this nation with deep roots in immigration is turning its back. It is the old “draw up the bridge now that I am here.”
Through some questionable politics, we have a man as president who seems to have no compassion whatsoever regarding those less fortunate. Worse yet, he has the backing of a political party that refuses to rein him in, a party that is seemingly willing to spend billions on a massive fence. Think what those dollars could do to help our poverty-stricken citizens, to say nothing of mitigating some of the conditions that drive these would-be immigrants to this nation.
Fences are meant to corral animals or to remove criminals from our society. Granted, a criminal might slip across this border but I emphasize that most enduring the hardships of this journey share your and my motivation to make the best life possible for ourselves.
It is often said that it is the drug dealers who really make the rules controlling this border. So long as we furnish such a lucrative market for them, no fence will hold them back. They will find ways to deliver their product while exploiting some of these innocent people stuffed in those trucks as well as those abandoned in the wild lands that they must cross by foot to get to the hoped-for life of freedom.
One bright note is the groups that put water and other needed supplies for the totally unprepared foot travelers stranded in this no man’s land. Caught up in our approach to the situation is our Border Patrol. The simplicity that the law is the law and some human compassion is a serious dilemma for anyone.
As for the fence itself, have we forgotten how we deplored the mile after mile fence splitting Germany into two parts? In looks, it was not so formidable as the one proposed by this president because it was well fortified with mines on either side. Still, desperate people used various strategies to attempt its crossing. When the fence doesn’t keep “them” out, will this president implement mines?
Interesting enough, there is one kind of immigrant that we continue to welcome. That is the well-educated who staying in their own nation might possibly improve conditions there, thereby reducing the need to emigrate. Immigrating here exacerbates their poverty while enriching what is already the most fortunate nation the world has ever known. When we take their smartest and brightest, we exploit that nation when both might be helped by working with them in their native land.
On another subject, we might consider working with them on tariffs. I leave that one for another time. Perhaps we can learn from that one quicker than we have from our immigration brouhaha of years standing.
Whether it is an escape from poverty and corruption or war (a form of corruption itself?), this nation has long offered a haven. At the same time, we have exhibited mixed emotions as to whom we welcomed. We welcomed those south of us when we needed their labor while our citizens were off to war.
It was OK then, but now we have placed those following them in an intolerable position as we decide who does or does not belong here. Never mind how it developed. Our president leads a group that wants them gone and is taking many inhumane methods—most especially splitting families—to achieve that goal. Ironically enough, the political party advocating this heretofore equally advocated for intact families.
We have had an entirely different relationship with the more-like-us viable nation to our north. Another time, we can address our history of the slave trade with Africa and its effect. More recently, our action in Southeast Asia has forced us to allow, with limited welcome, large numbers whose homeland we nearly destroyed continuing what European colonializing began.
Who can deny that much of the current seeking of refuge from the Middle East at the very least is exacerbated by our actions in that part of the world? In the name of national security, we can slap on a reason for almost any chosen action. We severely limit their entry.
It is time to expand to a broader view of the world. It does not take a lot of history to realize that humankind has always been migratory taking their culture with them for one reason or another. Of all nations in the world, this one should respect the differences.
Our immigration policy should not be based on race/ethnic or religious difference. So long as such great disparity exists in living conditions there will be a desire to come here. If we cannot accommodate them, then we had best put some resources into improving their native lands because no fence or other impediments will protect us in isolated splendor. We share the planet.
Ruth Gadebusch is a veteran and community activist, a former member of the Fresno Unified School Board and the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing, and an emeritus member of the Board of Directors of the Center for Civic Education.