It was an unusually cold Christmas this past year in much of the United States. Yet Christmas always seems to engender stories that warm the heart, such as the tale of a couple in Buffalo, New York, who took in a group of stranded Korean tourists who got stuck in the snow in front of their house. This simple act of kindness allowed the couple to see strangers in need and respond, and it allowed the rest of us to see what can happen when we open our hearts and minds to those in need, even when they don’t look like us.
However, before you could get too teary-eyed about how wonderful Christmas was and how proud Jesus would have been of us, perhaps you should imagine yourself on board one of the Washington, D.C.-bound buses full of Latino immigrants during the holidays. There you would have found cold and hungry children sent from Texas by their good “Christian” governor, Greg Abbott, to be dumped on a street corner in Washington, D.C., near the doorstep of the Vice President of the United States on Christmas Eve. If you were on board that bus, you would have been able to touch human beings being treated like refuse.
Then, remember that they may be the lucky ones. They were not shivering on the pavement in El Paso, Texas, or Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, simply hoping that their god would stop the suffering because it is clear that the “wonderful” Americans would not. To get closer, and if you have any doubts, next time you hold your children this winter, wrap them in a blanket and leave them on the sidewalk for a while. Maybe that will help the unconvinced to understand what the American government apparently does not understand – cruelty is cruelty even when the children aren’t yours.
The images are everywhere, individual compassion abounds, and while some reach out to help, our politicians find billions for weapons of war and tens of millions to invest in propaganda and in their own campaigns. And then they find more billions to invest in “border security” that pushes human beings to the freezing side of nowhere. This is, unfortunately, an all hands on deck dereliction of duty at every level of government. It is underscored by a complete disregard for the international norms that seek to impose humane requirements for meeting immigrant pleas for asylum and refuge and the laws of the United States meant to codify those norms.
Then there is the nagging feeling that if these refugees were Italians or Hungarians or Ukrainians, the American government would have figured out a way to keep their children warm, fed, and sheltered. This is in stark contrast to the mindless political drama and legal morass that seems enshrined in America’s response to Black and Brown refugees. As a nation still struggling with any semblance of racial justice, the situation at the southern US border has the similar stench of police violence, housing red lines, and intractable education and health disparities.
It would be remarkable if the images of cruelty were enough to say “enough” and for a collective conscience to rise up and figuratively storm the Capitol to stop the cruelty. Apparently, it finally became just enough for the generally compassionate President Joe Biden to find his way to the southern border. Unfortunately, the brief visit was all show and no substance. Not only were the cold and hungry children and their desperate parents and companions kept away from President Biden, he didn’t even take the opportunity to hold a shivering child in his arms and say to that child, “There is nothing I can do.” While that statement is wrong and untrue, at least it would have been dramatic.
While it was nice that the President thanked those who “guard” the border for their tireless service on behalf of a threatened nation and that he met with a few beleaguered local officials, it was immediately clear that the problems remained behind as the presidential motorcade sped away.
For some reason, the President seemed to go it alone, with only his ineffective Secretary of Homeland Security at his heels. There was absolutely no attempt at a show of resolve in the face of the crisis at hand, and there was no sign of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the secretaries of Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Defense, and Transportation, or the Attorney General. At the least, each of them could have said to an additional shivering child, “There is nothing I can do.”
However, there is plenty that each of them could do, but they are choosing not to do it. They routinely condemn cruelty around the globe, but seem blind to that same darkness at home. Tent cities and other temporary shelters go up all the time in other countries to house refugees, but not at the southern US border. Food, clothing, and basic healthcare are provided by governments committed to the humane treatment of human beings seeking asylum and refuge, even refugees nations don’t want in their countries. It happens every day, just not at the US southern border. That border is reserved for chaos-driven cruelty.
To be certain, America needs comprehensive immigration reform that not only addresses those seeking to enter the US legally and illegally, but also addresses those already here. It is estimated that there are over 11 million illegal immigrants within the US, about a third of whom were brought to the US illegally as minors and have lived most of their lives in the US (“DREAMers”).
It is well documented that the vast majority of the illegal immigrant population lead peaceful lives and contribute to the nation’s communities. Yet all live under the threat of inhumane deportation – even the guy who coaches your kid’s baseball team and the woman who takes care of your kids when you are at work. As they drag your kid’s coach to a detention center, remember to tell him that he will be missed.
I could go on, but I think you get the picture. As with so many of the seemingly intractable challenges that face any nation, the easiest to forget are often the cruelest. In America, there are children who go to bed hungry every night, there are human beings walking our streets in front of us without hope or shelter, and there are voiceless immigrants being exploited every single day. Look at them, touch them, and when you retreat to your own safe haven, remember them and forcefully advocate for them.
If we turn away now from what we have just seen and continue to see, each of us will lose a little piece of our own dignity.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.
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