Now for the record, I have a great deal of empathy for people forced to seek refuge in the United States. However, the politicization of the humanitarian catastrophe at the border is a sad reflection on the once welcoming spirit of America.
Some think this migrant caravan is like a Summer Camp nature hike. They seem to forget that people are risking their lives and the lives of their children, in some cases sending their children on alone just for the chance at surviving when there is little chance in their own country.
Only the most desperate—not the greedy or lazy— would do that. From Guatemala to the U.S. border is 1,603 miles. I dare say few Americans have ever faced walking that far to save their children. Most of them won’t even walk them to the bus stop; they drive 300 feet.
Sadly, it’s not the first time we turned away desperate people from our borders or argued they were dangerous and demonized them. Before WWII, we turned away the S.S. St. Louis, a ship carrying 937 Jewish refugees, including women and children, from Nazi Germany. (https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/ss-st-louis-jewish-refugees-turned-away-holocaust)
So we should consider our actions with deliberation lest history once again shows our decision to be calloused and fatal to innocent people.
Yet a story in the August 9, 2021, The New Yorker (Transplant Dept. Homesick Restaurant by Fergus McIntosh) illustrates how warped immigration policies contribute to the problem.
The story is about a man named Ivan Garcia. The story starts out with a pleasant tale of his cooking skills at his restaurant. Then, it describes the various Mexican dishes he prepares, which remind him of his Mexican heritage. There is now a movie about Mr. Garcia and his life in America.
The article reveals details that spark a bit of mixed emotions on my part.
You see, Mr. Garcia is undocumented. Undocumented—as the late brilliant comic George Carlin once said — is one of those words we’ve invented to make unpleasant things sound better. I prefer the more straightforward and understandable “illegal alien.”
Now, as I said in the beginning, I have a great deal of empathy for those forced to find a way into the U.S. to survive. So I think it is an issue we need to manage with a blend of enforcement and empathy. But in Mr. Garcia’s case, the story talks of how much he misses his family and how sad it is that he cannot go home. He hasn’t seen his son, who is now twenty-eight, since the boy was six years old except on Facetime and video chats.
The fact is he cannot go home because he just might not be able to get back in.
The story goes on to bemoan the fact that when the restaurant business was suffering during the pandemic, he and his workers were unable to collect unemployment because of a lack of a social security number even though he pays taxes.
While I may have empathy for the desperate and downtrodden, the teeming masses yearning to be free, Mr. Garcia is none of that. He may be a hard worker. Ivan Garcia may be a very nice man who does much for his community. But the reality is he is taking advantage of America’s kind spirit.
Nowhere in the article does it mention any effort Mr. Garcia made to become a citizen. Nowhere does it say how much he would like to become a citizen. All it says is how sad it is that he cannot travel home to Mexico without risking his life here.
At the risk of sounding callous and uncaring, I suggest to Mr. Garcia he be grateful for the time he’s had here in America. Luck and fortunate circumstances have let him send money back to his family. Money he was able to earn here while breaking our laws.
I suggest to Mr. Garcia that it is time for him to return to Mexico and, if he so desires, to start the legal process to return. By leaving, he opens a space for those less fortunate than him who are dying to get in.
There is one concept we should keep in mind. The crisis at the border will come when people no longer try to come here or see us as a beacon of hope, or worse, are trying to get out. Then we will face a real crisis.
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