By Richard Bleil
A friend of mine posted a meme on her social media that read something like “imagine illegally breaking into a foreign country and then complaining that the jail cell quality is below your standards”, followed by laughing emojis.
Let me state this for the record; I generally don’t agree with my friend’s very conservative opinions, but she really is my friend. I respect her, and we can have open and respectful discussions of our differences while respecting one another.
That being said, I couldn’t really let a meme laughing at the trials and tribulations of these struggles without saying something. So, I commented, “imagine taking your family out of a country to protect them from the ravages of war only to be separated by your children at the border and later discovering that they died alone in a concentration camp.”
Harsh? You can think so if you like, but it seems no more harsh than joking about it which was exactly my point.
As you might, imagine, my conservative friend living in a conservative part of the country working a job traditionally done by conservative people has many conservative friends. I’m sure you’re shocked to hear that, yes, my comment attracted a LOT of fire.
One of her friends actually said in a reply, “Well, with all of the education that YOU have, what would YOU do?” Okay, before I go one with how I responded, I would like to ask a serious question. Why is it that when somebody like me points out something like this, it is so common for people with no good reply to try to make me feel bad for my education? I don’t get that. I am not one of those people who believes that somehow my opinion is more significant because I have a degree, but seriously, I’m not going to be ashamed of my accomplishments either.
The interesting thing, however, is that the person who asked this, in my opinion, is finally asking the RIGHT question!!!!!!!
See, it’s the right question because, even if the voice in my head is correct in reading it as a smart-alek remark, it’s still asking the question. That means it’s opening the dialog, and yes, I took advantage of the opportunity. See, the BEST response is not the conservative one, and it’s not the liberal one either. It’s somewhere in between, and we CAN reach it IF we open the dialogue.
Before we begin, let’s review a few things. First of all, most of these immigrants are not illegal. By our OWN laws, as well as international law, they have the right to enter the US through a legal port of entry, as most of them do, and apply for asylum, which most of them do. It’s actually few immigrants that violate these laws, yet they are immediately arrested and separated from their children who are held in detention centers that are increasingly referred to as “concentration camps” because of the similarities. These “detention centers” are not even run by the US, but rather, have been contracted out to a private company whose primary goal is to make money. Now, I don’t hold this against the company; every company has the primary mission of making money because if they didn’t, they wouldn’t be in business. The problem is that in a situation like this, the company will invariably cut corners to save money which is why these centers are overcrowded and unsanitary.
These immigrants are often fleeing countries that are in the midst of military upheaval because of instability because the US government provided arms to insurgents to unseat leaders deemed “unfriendly” to our interests. Yep, it’s a problem we caused, and, as we are continually seeing but somehow never learning, the governments we instill tend to turn on us and simply become the next regime for us to overturn. These immigrants were being watched for months as they made their way north. We knew they were coming, but instead of figuring out how to handle them properly, the best we came up with was detention centers. We spent time and money figuring out how to arrest them rather than how to process them.
So, what are my ideas for handling the situation? Here are a few ideas.
First, in the “opportunities lost” column, why couldn’t we have secured approval from Mexico to meet them on their journey to begin gathering information. We could have created a “rapid entry” list, so when they knew, we would already have a list of some fraction to be allowed in, or turned away, once their identity was verified. This would have freed up time for those who were not pre-processed to reduce the backlog we saw.
Secondly, why couldn’t we have set up centers to keep families together. Parents will take care of their children, and, frankly, we could even make part of the approval process observations on how they pitch in to help and take care of the center. This would alleviate the stress of staff at the concentration camps to take care of the kids, and staff at the prisons to take care of the inmates saving money, space and hassle.
Third, provide food and water. Yes, food and water. In our society, we are all well aware that we have more than enough resources to provide food. In fact, why don’t we give them the food that is being removed for disposal from grocery stores for disposal because it is slightly past its expiration date. Another of her friends (conservative again) suggested that we should not be taking care of these immigrants while we have homeless and poor citizens that we are not taking care of, and frankly, she’s correct, but let’s think about two things. First, considering the population of the US, the actual number of immigrants is actually insignificant, and the drain on our resources is virtually none. Secondly, the two are not related; the same people who are treating immigrants inhumanely are the ones giving tax cuts and financial handouts to the wealthy while cutting medicaid and food programs for the working class poor.
So, am I right?
The reality is that it is not about “right or wrong”. It’s about finally opening a real dialog. I’ve presented my ideas. If you have better ideas, if you see problems, if you think there’s a way we can do things more efficiently, that’s great. Let’s talk about it!