As the semester continued, I began drawing more connections between Jemisin’s work and real-world events. One hit home, pretty hard. Jemisin writes, on page 123, “You hate the way we live. The way the world makes us live… we have to hide and be hunted down like dogs if we’re ever discovered.” As I read this, I automatically thought of two things: my family and the families of those who immigrate here as well. My mother immigrated to the United States in 1986 in search of the “American Dream”. After sending more than 30 years in the states she realized that her American Dream would be me. My mom was able to earn the opportunity to apply for her residency and I received the privilege of being a United States citizen because of her. The life we live today wouldn’t have been possible if she did not take the decision to leave her hometown in Mexico all those years ago. A year ago, I was assigned to write a report on a recent event in my U.S. Government class. As I scrolled down the New York Times’ website, I came across a headline that caught my eye and not in a good way. It read “Trump Administration Considers Separating Families to Combat Illegal Immigration.” I was in disbelief.
Throughout the article, it spoke on the current immigration policy which is to keep families intact as they wait for a decision on whether they will be deported. During that time, they are either held in a special family detention centers or released with a court date. Under this policy and former President Barack Obama’s presidency, their attempts to warn people about the dangers of the journey to the United States failed. This was in part due to the fact that the number of people crossing the border reached an unprecedented level during 2017. Meaning, Obama’s presidency did not discourage families from entering the United States. Because of those reasons, the Trump administration considered another option. The new policy that the Trump Administration is trying to pass separates families at the border. The parents are sent to adult detention facilities and the children are sent either to a detention facility or with a sponsor. Although it may sound reasonable that the child will be able to stay within the United States with a sponsor who can be a relative, there is no certainty that the child will end up with someone the family trusts. Also, the requirements to apply in order to be a sponsor to take a lot of time and often end in rejection so these families have no other option but to enter the United States illegally.
It is important to note that after the election of 2016, the number of people crossing the border significantly dropped to the lowest number in at least 17 years. Due to the decrease of immigration into the United States, administrators are naming this phenomenon as the “Trump effect” for the reason that individuals are being discouraged to immigrate to the United States. Despite the legal opportunity people like Trump believe immigrants have, situations make it difficult for people to do things “right”. Many families escape pressing situations in which they are not able to apply for a visa in order to enter the U.S. legally. And, even if they do apply for asylum from their native country, their applications are, in some cases, denied which gives them no other choice but to cross the border. In that case, there should be a system in place that really helps people immigrating to the United States other than separating them from their families, sending them back, or incarcerating them. There are some extreme cases where people come to the states in order to escape poverty, genocide, war, and other dangerous situations.
That was a year ago. This year, the United States forcibly separated and jailed 1,995 children as their parents attempted to successfully cross the border. It literally felt like The Fifth Season playing out in my head. The Orogenes, in this case, were the children of the “illegal” immigrants, the Guardians were ICE and Border Patrol and The Fulcrum was the detention facilities. During this political and, most importantly, humanitarian issue President trump referred to the wave of immigration as “herd of cattle” and immigrants as “animals” alluding to the fact that these people weren’t people at all and shouldn’t be treated as such. According to Vox’s “Donald Trump and the disturbing power of dehumanizing language”, it says that history and psychological science show us that when we refer to people as “animals” or anything other than “people” it can flip a mental switch in our minds. It may increase our anger and disgust towards them. And, as such, that’s what happened. Children were kept in cages, in-communicated with their family members, and adults were deported, charged, or prosecuted.
In the grand scheme of things, some may have viewed this an attempt to secure our ‘national security’ but it matters to me in a much more personal sense.It is unfair to neglect people who just want a better life for the simple fact that they enter the country “illegally’. The whole concept of the word ‘illegal’ has always bothered me because it opens the door to much more discrimination for a group of people who are always struggling to adapt to their new life. This matters because it determines the future of our nation. Whether we view acceptance as strength or power. After all, no one is illegal on stolen land.