I know how dangerous it can be to bring up certain topics in this country. The old adage of never bringing up religion or politics in polite company extends to never bring them up in any circumstance, unless you are sure you are among like-minded people. I get it, because I hate confrontation as much as the next person. If a controversial issue arises I am usually inclined to shy away or cut to the chase and say let’s agree to disagree. I have used this blog to discuss some touchy subjects such as transgenders, women’s marches and dealing with depression. This week I am going to dip my toe into the immigration debate because I am appalled at what I see happening.
There was a recent letter to the editor in our newspaper about how no country, other than the US, allows people to come across its borders without following proper procedures. Perhaps that writer missed the whole Syrian refugee crisis? As I watched the news reports on that, I couldn’t help but think how these are all people who were living their lives much like me. They had friends and family to be with, jobs to go to, shopping to do, recreational activities to have fun, etc. In short, everything that makes our lives our own. Then a catastrophic war happens and all those things are peeled away and people get down to the barest essentials and priorities, which is to keep yourself and your loved ones alive. I know I live in a well-to-do bubble. I have a house, food, transportation, and my health. I hope to never know the agony and anguish that goes into deciding to uproot myself and family and head for a border with little more than the clothes on my back in order to stay alive and to hope for a better future.
I recently had a conversation with an immigrant from Columbia. I thought he would be completely sympathetic to the plight of the people who are having their children taken from them. Nope! He has first hand knowledge of how some people try to cheat their way into the US. This is what those who oppose immigrants want us to hear. But I know that every government and industry is a target for scammers. Any natural disaster is a potential windfall for those looking to swindle government programs and insurance companies. I have worked in the service industry much of my adult life. In one retail store, someone filled an empty file cabinet box with VCRs (it was the 1980s) and paid for the cabinet and walked out. In the restaurant I worked at, people would come in and claim they got food poisoning and demand a gift certificate. When I told them by law I had to call the Health Department, they would quickly change their tune. In the wine store I managed, two men came in and, while one distracted me, the other attempted to steal a top shelf liquor.
My point is there will always be people who want to make a quick, illegal buck. Unfortunately, they are the ones who get the news coverage. They are the ones we remember. Meanwhile, thousands of people fear for their lives and they make a decision to face a harrowing trip with an uncertain ending because that is a better option than staying put. When life gets distilled down to life or death, I cannot believe anyone wouldn’t find a way to survive, even if it means crossing a border. Tearing these families apart only adds to their suffering, which, in my mind, makes us no better than whomever they are fleeing. I am not in any way advocating for open borders. I am saying there has to be a better way. Instead of wasting money, energy and manpower to separate families, use it to assess who truly needs asylum. Adding grateful people to our population, people who will pay taxes, work hard and live the American dream is what I believe this country is all about.