I’m still overwhelmed with the immigration news. I did not expect to be writing a second post on this topic this week, but here we are. The good news is, the collective outcry we made about families being separated at the border was loud and powerful and pushed the President to reverse course. The bad news is, it’s not as simple as that — the executive order has caused a lot of chaos. Reports say the 2300+ kids who are already in the system are not being reunited with their parents, the zero-tolerance immigration policy is still in place, and innocent kids will continue to be detained for long periods of time.
I’m still reading everything I can, and at this point, if I got to choose, what I would put forth as a plan of action is putting all our efforts into reuniting families, and simultaneously re-implementing a program that doesn’t detain people, and was shown to be successful:
The Family Case Management Program that is being shuttered had 630 families enrolled as of April 19. Essentially a counseling service, it has operated in Chicago, Miami, New York, Los Angeles, and Baltimore/Washington, D.C., since January 2016. Social workers help participants find lawyers, navigate the overburdened immigration court system, get housing and health care, and enroll the kids in school.
“The families have thrived,” wrote Schlarb, president of the GEO Group division that also manages the company’s electronic-monitoring business. She noted that 99 percent of participants “successfully attended their court appearances and ICE check-ins.” That includes more than a dozen families who were ultimately deported, added Brane, a member of a DHS advisory panel on family detention.
The Trump administration shut down this program that focused on helping displaced immigrant families who fear returning to their home countries. How about we reinstate it?
If you’re feeling like me and still trying to get more informed about the current immigration policy, I’ve collected 10 [UPDATE: Actually 12+ ] of the most helpful things I’ve read or listened to over the last couple of days.
Helpful Articles on the Immigration Policy
– Let’s consider the series of choices faced by immigrants fleeing Central America. (WP)
– Many people are asking for more information about why so many people are fleeing countries like Honduras and Venezuela. Here is a primer from National Geographic on what’s happening in Honduras.
– Contrary to popular perception, a substantial majority of refugees, as in 85%, are hosted in developing regions. Nine of the 10 largest refugee-hosting countries today are developing countries. Since we are one of the wealthiest countries, I feel we should be at the top of the list of places who accept refugees.
– It always helps to follow the money. There are several companies very invested in keeping refugees, immigrants, and asylum-seekers locked up. This NPR program (aired today, Jun 21st) looks at some of the biggest players in this industry, CoreCivic and GEO Group, and how they are profiting off the administration’s immigration policy. Very troubling stuff.
– If you haven’t felt the effects of the immigration crackdown in your own life, you may start seeing it in the produce aisle. There aren’t enough workers to harvest produce in California. According to the article, avocado farm workers start at minimum wage and can make up to $400 a day.
– So much of the attitude toward immigrants is fear-based. Few migrants have tried to enter Hungary in recent years, but Prime Minister Viktor Orban continues to present migration as a threat to the fabric of society. (NYT)
– The Guardian today has printed in their newspaper a list of 34,361 refugees who are known to have died trying to make it to Europe.
– ICE isn’t just focused on the borders. They are also coming after naturalized citizens (people who immigrated here and were granted citizenship already). I’m sure you know citizens — your friends, neighbors, and family members — who were once immigrants. They are at risk.
– Our melting-pot continues. White deaths outnumber white births in most U.S. states. (NYT) Does this data surprise you? Does it seem like progress? Does it freak you out?
– An important thread from a brilliant immigration attorney with actions to take and words to use to change the conversation in a constructive way.
[ Update with more links: ]
– The ‘tent cities’ being created cost more than keeping migrant kids with parents.
– If you’re seeing myths passed around and not quite sure how to respond, Michelle Martin has written two very helpful researched posts — one on her blog, one on Facebook.
– Food for thought. “Why are white people expats when the rest of us are immigrants?”
– A little different than Alexandra Petri’s typical columns. I found it very moving. How to sleep at night when families are being separated at the border. (WP)
How about you? What are you reading this week on immigration? What would you like to see happen? What kind of immigration policy makes sense to you? Should Dreamers be given automatic citizenship? And what are your thoughts on migrant workers? Would you like to see the immigration process streamlined? Do you feel it’s not strict enough? What kind of impact has immigration had on your life?
30 thoughts on “If You Could Change Immigration Policy, What Would You Do?”
Thank you for your insightful posts Gabby, I really appreciate what you’ve been doing! You’ve put everything together in such a concise and level headed way. I haven’t been able to be level headed in my conversations with people, I’ve just been freaking out hard core. Really going to try and focus on breathing and calling reps and making donations.
Thank you for all of this information! I’m trying to keep learning as well. I’m so shocked how many people (including some that I know) agree and support these abuses.
I am also an immigration lawyer. I’m happy you are posting. It’s been a difficult year and a half. Very hard. I am so glad all of this has come to light, but we have been trying to raise attention on these problems for a long time. It shouldn’t have come to this but our voices fell on deaf ears. A note on trumps Eo. He did not need an order to change policy. Don’t give him credit. Don’t pat him on the back. He just wants to be painted as a savior who is acting when Congress didn’t when this policy was always his plan and strategy (with the encouragement of the xenophobic Steven Miller). This new policy sucks. He wants to jail parents and kids. This is not legal and it is not a solution. We need humane alternatives to detention. I’m happy to engage further with anyone who has questions.
Thank you for your work and posting here. What organizations would you recommend for donations to help reunite families?
I’ve been thinking about this too, and I’m sincerely wondering – what would be the harm in opening our borders completely? Why do we even need a formal (or overly complicated) immigration process? I get that we’d want to maybe do background checks to make sure we weren’t allowing actual criminals to escape prosecution in their home countries (and by criminals I mean people actually accused of a crime, not just whole swaths of people Trump doesn’t like). And yes, we’d need to figure out a way for people to get IDs, pay taxes, and become citizens if they wanted…but I guess I just don’t get why we need heavy regulation of immigrants in the first place. Are we afraid of needy people overwhelming social service agencies? Is it “just” institutionalized racism? Gotta do some more reading/learning for sure.
I agree with you, I really do have a hard to accepting fear based mentality when it comes to immigration. I really feel like our country has enough resources to share and that our safety and “national security” isn’t compromised by immigrants.
That is an interesting thought, Pamela.
In Europe reason to manage immigration would be the money, since every citizen has the right to claim social security (health care, rent allowance etc).
But as Germany (my country) I do think there is enough money to stabilize the social security system. A big problem are – in the US and here in Germany too – the masses of money we put in weapons. Must this be done?
I think if we had open immigration, immigration would be so high that it would profoundly destabilize the country. The wealth gap between the U.S. and Mexico is the largest in the world (and Mexico is much, much more prosperous than its Central American neighbors), and I would expect tens of millions of people to want to come, should they have the realistic opportunity to work and live safely in the U.S. I think that the economic largesse we enjoy would be diluted as the wealth gap disappears. I think the main reason that we Americans get to live, overall, in unimaginable luxury, is because we’re standing on the backs of the vast majority of humanity that lives much more humbly. So, would evening things out be good for the world and the morally right thing? Probably. But would it be good for average Americans? Not by standard quality-of-life measures.
But would it destabilize the country? I am no economist, so I don’t know, but I have to wonder if immigration would be so significantly higher if the borders were open.
I think immigration reform also ties into our relationships with other countries, particularly our economic ones. How much does our economy contribute to the very crises that lead others to seek asylum and to immigrate? This ties into what you’re saying, I.
I have wondered about a system that gives each immigrant an identification number. Much like a driver’s license number, or something. You use it to pay taxes (which most immigrants, illegal or otherwise, do), you use it to enroll in school, etc. But we can also use it when real crimes have been committed to kick someone out and to keep them out.
Of course there would be loopholes – real criminals both white and minority good at finding loopholes, but I think it would help to honor the humanity and the reality of why people are immigrating in the first place.
Making it expensive and difficult to enter legally maintains a desperate underclass of workers. They don’t challenge bad working and living conditions because they don’t have legal recourse.
I hear people complain all the time about “illegals” and yet they don’t stop frequenting the very businesses that they assume or suspect are hiring these immigrants (I don’t want to refer to people as “illegal”). I’ve called them out on their hypocrisy as well. If these immigrants were truly unwanted, they wouldn’t be hired. People want them here, they want to profit off their labor and do not have to treat them well. I see that as equal to straight-up xenophobia and racism for reasons we fight over immigration policy.
If you are truly interested in reading/learning about the situation, do some research on Flores vs. Reno. It will break your heart, and open your eyes to the complexity of the situation. Unfortunately, vetting immigrants is a process which requires a formal system, weeding out criminals and verifying family relationships takes time. In researching the current process, I learned part of the reason ICE has to separate adults from children is that children were being assaulted by adults in family detention facilities and many criminals were using trafficked children to gain entry into the US. These are elements I had never considered. I’m not a Trump fan, but it is troubling that the Trump administration is shouldering the blame for a situation that needed to be handled years ago.
In response to the “Are we afraid of needy people overwhelming the social service agencies” question. YES. That too. We are already tapped out. Cities are getting creative with taxes (or doing without services) as it is. An influx of people taking advantage of services they have not invested in would collapse the system.
Perhaps a more restrictive immigration policy now would lead to a strengthened US economy and an immigration system able to handle those who are truly in need of a safe home in the future.
This poem was on the thread on A Cup of Jo this week.
I’m an Australian, we’ve faced our own moral questioning over our government’s refugee policies, and this poem has always felt pertinent.
“Home” by Warsan Shire.
no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark
you only run for the border
when you see the whole city running as well
your neighbors running faster than you
breath bloody in their throats
the boy you went to school with
who kissed you dizzy behind the old tin factory
is holding a gun bigger than his body
you only leave home
when home won’t let you stay.
no one leaves home unless home chases you
fire under feet
hot blood in your belly
it’s not something you ever thought of doing
until the blade burnt threats into
and even then you carried the anthem under
only tearing up your passport in an airport toilet
sobbing as each mouthful of paper
made it clear that you wouldn’t be going back.
you have to understand,
that no one puts their children in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land
no one burns their palms
no one spends days and nights in the stomach of a truck
feeding on newspaper unless the miles travelled
means something more than journey.
no one crawls under fences
no one wants to be beaten
no one chooses refugee camps
or strip searches where your
body is left aching
because prison is safer
than a city of fire
and one prison guard
in the night
is better than a truckload
of men who look like your father
no one could take it
no one could stomach it
no one skin would be tough enough
go home blacks
sucking our country dry
niggers with their hands out
they smell strange
messed up their country and now they want
to mess ours up
how do the words
the dirty looks
roll off your backs
maybe because the blow is softer
than a limb torn off
or the words are more tender
than fourteen men between
or the insults are easier
than your child body
i want to go home,
but home is the mouth of a shark
home is the barrel of the gun
and no one would leave home
unless home chased you to the shore
unless home told you
to quicken your legs
leave your clothes behind
crawl through the desert
wade through the oceans
your survival is more important
no one leaves home until home is a sweaty voice in your ear
run away from me now
i dont know what i’ve become
but i know that anywhere
is safer than here
We are in sync. I just shared the same poem on my Facebook Page. It’s stunning and made me weep.
Everyone who wants to comment on asylum seekers and refugees should have to read this before speaking/writing.
I would love to hear your thoughts about Melania’s jacket. What is your interpretation?
Honestly, I feel quite cynical at this point. It seems like some sort of weird trap for the media? It’s a jacket from Zara, two seasons ago. I’ve never seen Melania wear anything from Zara before, or anything with that style. And obviously she’s surrounded by staff who are hired to make sure she presents herself well. It’s hard to imagine her staff sending her off thinking it would be appropriate. Makes me think it’s an intentional distraction.
But again, I’m cynical right now. What’s your take?
I think it’s the political equivalent of yelling “look there’s a squirrel!” to get people talking about something else. Melania only wears couture. This is nothing new and that’s been an allowance accorded to her well before she became first lady. I don’t hold that against her. She married Trump and puts up with his cheating and personality for this benefit. It’s a business arrangement in a sense. However her staff continually looks to former First Ladies as an operational guide, particularly Michelle Obama. Michelle Obama was lauded as wearing JCrew, an American brand affordable to a large population of Americans. To me, wearing Zara is an attempt to gain similar accolades. “Look Melania is just like us!” But sadly the voice is unsincere and manipulated. And I’m not even getting into the issues of Zara’s fast fashion issues of worker abuse and environmental impact.
Wait…I didn’t see the back of her jacket which is, of course, horrible. But yes, I agree with you Gabby. I think it’s some sort of ploy to incite what I hear being called “liberal false outrage”.
This administration is certainly the master of distraction. It is pretty clear Melania never wanted this role. I think the sentiment on the jacket is how she feels about a number of her official duties.
Thank you for sharing this information, I’m trying to learn as much as I can. The latest podcast in Malcolm Gladwell’s Revisionist History presents an interesting history of “circular migration”.
I am a fearful person with a fair share of xenophobia (that description probably fits more people than not).
That said, I imagine being an immigrant or seeking asylum is harder than anything I had to do in my life.
The Dublin Agreement is highly unfair and it has allowed Germany (that ‘s my home) and other European countries to turn a blind eye on the issue of immigration for far too many years.
So I think it was the least we could do to “let in” (for the lack of a better phrase) as many people as we have in the last few years, although it admittedly makes me queasy from time to time. Immigration is not organized in a proper way here: Long waits in the immigration process leading to people having to live with an unclear status for years, no right to start working, not enough help to learn the German language, bad documentation of who actually is in the country and who has already started an immigration process in another country,… All these things lead to frustrations and fears (for both new immigrants and the people already living here) and make it easier for far right parties to gain attention and their personnel to get elected.
I sincerely hope (and doubt it at the same time, because too many national interests are at play here) that there will be a good European solution to the issue and hope that Germany will shoulder a generous share of the work that has to be done.
Unable to comprehend what happens at the US borders and news coverage is making me sick.
Thank you for posting your thoughts Anne. I have watched Germany’s actions since the Syrian influx and have commended your country for doing what is so difficult. Many analysts now believe that Germany and Merkel is the country that is now the foremost international leader and example, when for many years it used to be the US. It’s hard to be the international example and it’s hard for humans to deal with change. It’s disrupting and uncomfortable and fearful. And the process for integrating immigrants is not perfectly hammered out yet. But I hoped the world would be able to look to the EU and see what ideas worked and what didn’t work. I hoped that the world leaders would be able to sit down and discuss. But after Trumps miserable G7 visit, I’m not sure that is going to be possible.
Thank you for sharing all of this information and working to educate people on what’s happening. I am an empathetic person by nature, and everything that’s happening astounds me. You would think that separating children from their parents, in some cases by thousands of miles, and drugging them, would be a no-brainer to rail against. But somehow, people are still siding with the orders to do just that.
I wish the immigration process was far more streamlined, that it would be easier for children and spouses to join parents/spouses that are already legally in the country. I wish dreamers would be granted citizenship. I wish that the country as a whole saw immigrants and refugees as the benefit they are to our country. I wish people remembered that our ancestors or family members that immigrated here came here because they too were looking for a better life and that people would view today’s immigrants as people simply trying to do their best for themselves and their families. I am very concerned/enraged at the actions our government is currently taking regarding immigration and especially at separating children and deporting naturalized citizens who have American CITIZENSHIP. How is that even possible?? I agree wholeheartedly that as one of the wealthiest countries with some of the most land (which compared to many countries is largely underdeveloped, especially in the mid-west) we should be shouldering a far larger portion of the load with both refugees and asylum-seekers, as well as all other immigrants.
Yesterday I was pulling out my social security card and passport to get an updated “RealID” driver’s license, and I stumbled upon my naturalization certificate as a U.S. citizen, signed by my dad. We had been in the U.S. for five years, and I was 11 years old. Being an immigrant kid in conservative Cincinnati was hellish, but no one has given me any trouble about being an immigrant in my adult life. Nobody yells at me to go back where I came from. But the little girl looking out of that photo with a nervous smile, 5’2”, 85 lbs, also is described as having eyes: blue, hair: blonde. I’m an immigrant from Northern Ireland, and I’m white. So much of this immigration issue is about race.
I live in Southern California now, and I work with recent immigrants every day—they’re good people, they work hard, they have horrible jobs that they undertake to make a better life for their kids. I’m Catholic, and they’re in my parish. I see them at the store and say hi and chat. They’re part of the fabric of our community. We need to fix our broken immigration system and make this process one that acknowledges our need for them and allows them to live here. But they’re Latino, and again, it’s all about race. It will never happen under this administration. I can’t wait until the Trump years are just a dark memory, a blot on our nation’s history. It can’t come soon enough.
This topic is far from being resolved.
Just today I stumbled upon a paragraph in Norman Doidge’s excellent book “The Brain That Changes itself”. I unfortunately only got the german translation.
Doidge points out that early traumata change the hippocampus, causing it to shrink.
As an example he writes about animal as well as human children that are separated from their mother. The separation raises the level of a stress hormon called Glucocorticoid, which destroys cell connections inside of the hippocampus, that is used for learning and for building a long time memory. Early childhood stress makes children vulnerable for stress related diseases for the rest of their lives.
It took me a few days to be able to gather the emotional strength to come back and read all of the great posts you’ve shared. As always thank you for discussing and sharing such important topics on DM.
Gabby–Peter Beinart’s article in the Atlantic today echoes a lot of what you’ve said; he also mentions two successful Obama-era programs (Community Supervision & Intensive Supervision Alternative Program), both of which were, as he says, “vastly cheaper than detention.” And he talks about one obvious idea that I don’t think enough people are considering–increasing (NOT slashing, as Trump proposes) US aid to the Central American countries that many refugees right now are coming from. That’s ALSO cheaper (and vastly more humane!) than locking people up.