Immigration policy serves as a ping-pong game for politicians—a game that clearly disregards the human dignity of immigrants and their families at the cost of gaining more votes on either side of the political spectrum. The anxiety of being separated from your family, the trauma of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) barging into your home, and the fact that they are being treated as less than human are just some of the daily experiences the immigrant community across this nation faces. The election of President Biden at last provided what seemed like a better night's sleep for the immigrant community, but this, too, was short-lived.
Biden’s ear-catching promises became a glimmer of hope for a community that has had family members unjustly deported for decades now, but especially so during Trump’s presidency. These immigrants have been deprived of their human rights at detention centers and have been silenced under a xenophobic rhetoric that couldn’t care less about what they had to say or how they felt. After Trump’s presidency came to an end, there seemed to finally be tangible hope for positive, just, and humane changes for the immigrant community. The night of Biden’s election may have been the deep breath immigrants longed for under Trump’s administration, but already within the two months of Biden’s presidency, the sleepless and suffocating nights have unfortunately returned.
Yes, Biden’s presidency has just begun, but this still is no excuse to actively not care about immigrants and their families nor is it an excuse to remain complacent when precious time is being taken away from them. As one reads this, people's lives are at stake. Another bright light in the mind of an innocent child is dimmed and replaced by a darker world that no child should have to live in. Another family is being traumatically torn apart. Another immigrant who fled their home country in search of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” is detained by ICE, and is soon to be deported back to a foreign country one may say is their home, when the reality is, the U.S. has become their real home now.
While I do acknowledge that immigrants who risk coming to the U.S. without papers will inevitably face consequences of vile immigration policies, it is important to note that some of these immigrants are fleeing dangerous conditions in their countries of origin. Above all, the undocumented deserve to be treated humanely, especially in cases where families are separated.
President Biden promised that he would not deport someone in his first 100 days in office, would create an eight-year path to citizenship for approximately 11 million people in the U.S. without legal status, and even change the dehumanizing terminology that only serves to distort the image of immigrants. And yet, these promises have proved to be empty. So far, as of early February, Immigration and Customs Enforcement has deported 15 people to Jamaica and 269 people to Guatemala and Honduras within just two days. These countries are places where people fled violence and dangerous conditions, but didn't meet the strict parameters of asylum or immigration policies in the US.
Biden working to replace the term ‘alien’ with another term that is ‘less dehumanizing’, is a necessary step in the right direction, however, it sounds a bit ironic when the actual dehumanization is still clearly taking place. While it is not clear how many ‘criminals’ have been deported, according to AP NEWS, “President Joe Biden’s administration has deported hundreds of immigrants in its early days despite his campaign pledge to stop removing most people in the U.S. illegally at the beginning of his term.” Again, this clearly contradicts his initiative to eliminate the term ‘alien’.
Instead, here’s an order that I think sounds much more logical: First, stop deporting innocent immigrants. Second, stop monetizing detention center—they profit just by checking off a daily quota of numbers on a list. The quota to detain at least 34,000 people each day, aka the “detention-bed mandate”, is immoral and repulsive. Third, directly address the families and immigrants themselves by bringing them back together. Help them overcome the trauma they faced along the migration journey, along with the trauma of being undocumented in the US, by funding mental health resources. And then, change the harmful terminology of ‘alien’ and ‘illegal’, that are used to refer to those who are undocumented. Stop actually dehumanizing people before changing the terminology (or at least do both at the same time). Words are indeed powerful, which is why I definitely agree with changing the vocabulary used to refer to immigrants in order to reduce the negative connotations. But words are only part of it; the actions taken against immigrants are just as if not more powerful and meaningful.
I am by no means trying to undermine the work of President Biden so far, especially because immigration policies have been unjust for decades, but I do believe it to be extremely important to still hold both him and other politicians accountable to keeping their word, especially when it can change so much for millions of hurting families.
All of this news may seem just like distanced words to anyone, even to a much more ‘moral’ president, until you can put a recognizable face and story to it.
As someone, who, as a child, could not say goodbye to her father as ICE aggressively and inhumanely took him away, to see more children become separated from their families is immensely disheartening. The inner child voice in me always questioned why these so-called “ICE” men wanted my father. I honestly thought they worked at some ice machine and were just really awful and angry people—soon to find out that a basic Sparknotes summary of their job is to separate families and traumatize children like myself and my siblings.
To politicians: enough false hope and broken promises. Enough of this ‘back-and-forth’ policy game. You can change any word you want in the dictionary, but we still need actual and moral immigration policy changes now not later.