Although I'm a rabidly political gal, I've tried to keep that stuff primarily to my personal page, and have the Women's Self-Defense Initiative social media pages stay neutral. That ALL women deserve to be free from violence - whether they're a full-blown raging liberal like myself, a hardcore right-wing conservative, or anywhere in-between - is central to my mission. I don't want my political views to alienate someone who desperately needs me. But I can't stay silent any longer; my silence makes me complicit, and I cannot stand by idly while families are torn apart and the lives of children are destroyed.
What's going on right now in our country? During a six week period in April and May of 2018, nearly 2000 children were separated from their families at the border. This comes after U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a "zero tolerance" policy of charging migrants in federal criminal courts before their cases can reach immigration court. Immigrants seeking refuge in the United States are being charged under US Code 1325, the misdemeanor of illegal entry. Treated then as criminals, they have their children removed from their care and basically placed into "tent cities". The policy is that the U.S. will prosecute 100%, even in cases where the immigrants are clearly seeking asylum and present themselves at a port of entry.
Now, if illegal immigrants were really the evil criminal masterminds that so many racists make them out to be, it would make total sense for us to blow billions erecting a giant wall, ousting every last undocumented that we could track down, and keeping those scary brown people out. But that just isn't the case. First of all, let's focus on this wall nonsense. The majority of immigrants who are residing here illegally came to the country legally and simply overstayed their visas. So the wall is technically only going to catch a minimum anyway. Not to mention that illegal border crossings are currently at an all-time low. I think there are plenty of ways to spend those billions that would be far more beneficial to our society as a whole.
Estimates say there are about 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States; this is approximately 4% of the total American population. The number of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. has been declining steadily since 2007. And contrary to popular mythology, illegal immigrants do NOT qualify for public benefits like welfare, food stamps, or Medicaid. Many undocumenteds obtain employment with fake Social Security papers; this means that, while they cannot collect on any of that money, they are paying into the system. Undocumented immigrants pay into Social Security anywhere from $7 billion to $15 billion annually.
They aren't "stealing" your jobs, they aren't mooching off of welfare, and they ARE contributing strongly to our economy. But...are they dangerous? As a self-defense maven, I should be telling you who to watch out for, right? If they're coming here illegally and then stealing and raping and murdering, we need to crack down on illegal immigration, right? Yeah, they aren't any more dangerous that the folks that were born here. Less dangerous, in fact.
Let's be realistic. Emigrating to a new country is a huge freaking deal! People that are going to make the economic and social sacrifices necessary to build a new life in a new country are going to be pretty invested in making that new life work; it makes zero sense to endanger the new life they've built by committing crimes and engaging in risky behaviors. Numerous studies have shown that higher rates of immigration are, in fact, associated with lower rates of violent crime. Check out what the American Immigration Council has to say on the topic HERE.
Okay, so they aren't committing disproportionate amounts of crime, they aren't mooching off of our systems, they're just normal people looking to build better lives for themselves and their families. So why don't they just come here "legally", then? You know, how your ancestors did. Well, until the 1870's our federal government didn't really even do anything to restrict immigration to the United States. By 1870, 40% of residents in major metropolitan areas such as New York and Chicago were foreign-born!
Then we had the "Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882", which restricted the immigration of Chinese laborers, but not immigrants from other countries. (Totally NOT due to racism, I'm sure. Insert eye roll here). It wasn't until 1921 that the United States started restricting immigration based on national origin quotas. By this time, most of OUR ancestors (ancestors of the ones saying "why don't they come here legally like MY ancestors?") were already here. The national origin quota system has been revamped many times, frequently leaving needier regions of the world at a distinct disadvantage.
Let's be honest; if you had to relocate to another country to provide a better life for your family, would you prefer to do it legally or illegally? Anyone in their right mind would rather be legal. But the reality is that we, as a country, have made the "legal" process so incredibly onerous and cost-prohibitive, it's practically impossible. We have restricted immigration to only a few narrow categories of people. Backlogs for entry to the U.S. can range anywhere from five to twenty years!
And there is an incredibly high burden of proof for any immigrant seeking political asylum or refugee status. Even if they do qualify, we have set an annual cap rate on refugee admissions. Consider, also, that many immigrants are fleeing not political persecution but extreme poverty in their countries, so they will likely not qualify for asylum.
Here's the thing. If you weren't vocally protesting about Brock Turner - who raped an unconscious woman behind a garbage dumpster in front of witnesses - only having to serve three months jail time, you don't get to turn around and pretend your fears about immigrants are based on "security". You are far more likely to be victimized by a native-born American that an immigrant, legal or undocumented. If you're not out there 100% working to prevent violence against women, don't turn around and use the issue of violence against women to justify racism.
What can we REALLY do to address the immigration issue? Let's bring both sides together - liberal and conservative - and take a long, hard look at what we currently have for an immigration process. And then let's overhaul the fuck out of that ridiculously burdensome program!! When we make it easier for immigrants to come here legally, they will be able to contribute even more to our economy and our society. Talk to people that migrated here legally and find out what helped them to navigate the system successfully. Talk to people that migrated here illegally and find out what the barriers were and how they could have been better served. Use what you learn from people who have actually been there.
As a Buddhist, I am very conscious about people claiming America is a "Christian nation" founded on 'Christian ideals". I don't have a problem with Jesus, and I don't have a problem with Christianity. But I have a HUGE problem with hypocrisy. If you're going to be literally trying to pass laws about who I can and can't marry based on YOUR religion, you don't get to turn around and ignore the repeated Biblical admonitions about taking care of your fellow man and treating well the foreigner who resides in your land. You either live it completely, warts and all, or you quit trying to legislate the rest of us based on your beliefs.
These are CHILDREN being separated from their families. No amount of "their parents shouldn't have come here" bullshit can justify the terror that these kids are currently living in. Check out the American foster care system in general; do you think we're doing an even BETTER job with the kids we've got stuck in tent cities? Trauma has long-term effects on brain development in children; what's going to happen to these kids as they grow up? What kind of a society are we if we don't take care of the least of us, the neediest, the most vulnerable?
Let's stop the racism. Let's stop demonizing people that are coming here trying to live the American dream. Let's focus less on imaginary borders protecting you from imaginary boogeymen, and focus more on being fellow human beings. If you're a Christian, be brutally honest in answering the "What Would Jesus Do?" in regards to immigrants. If you're another religion, what would YOUR holy books say? If you're an atheist, you know right from wrong. Treat others as you'd want to be treated crosses all religions and philosophies. So how would you want to be treated?