The Mess at the Border: President Trump uses this phrase to characterize the scene currently unfolding near San Diego as a caravan of migrants completes its perilous, month-long journey north, seeking asylum in the US. A recent tweet illustrates the President’s thoughts.
This week’s border incidents are only the latest manifestation of the administration’s superficial solutions to our nation’s most vexing issues and its callous attitude towards the most vulnerable among us. The tone in the President’s tweet shows no compassion, no understanding of the back-stories endured by countless Central American individuals caught in the desperate struggle to save their lives as they seek to carve out a future for their children. Rhetoric focuses on “national security” while “human security” is ignored as families strive to find safe places for their children, free from the ravages of gangland violence that so plague the nations to our south.
Can we even begin to imagine the hardships endured along the journey? The uncertainty about the road ahead? The struggle for basic food and water, shelter and safety? Can we begin to calculate the depth of guilt felt as parents rip their children from their homeland (which, despite all its hardships and threats of violence, is still “home” to the kids) in search of a better life? Can we imagine their fear in exposing them to the uncertainties and perils of forging relentlessly onward? Can we measure their courage in not knowing if at the end of the journey, they will be turned away, forced to retrace their steps south to confront the dangers lurking back home? Or that their family will be separated by government bureaucracy, leaving some to chart a new course on their own without familiar and trusted fellow travelers?
And what is the “disgrace” to which the President alludes? That people are seeking escape from murderous thugs in their homeland? That they strive for economic opportunity? Yearn for health and prosperity for their children? These are basic human desires we all share, not disgraceful traits of a greedy horde overrunning our borders.
Pronouncements from the White House reflect no recognition of the bravery exhibited by these individuals in their endless trek to the US border, nor any welcome to this land. They bear no acknowledgment of contributions that generations of immigrants have made. Instead, the administration’s attitude makes a mockery of Emma Lazarus’s words on the Statue of Liberty, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” and America’s long-established beacon as a safe haven for the weak and weary, the oppressed and objectified. The President laments that we are the only country in the world so naive; but for centuries, that is not the word those living outside the US would use to describe American generosity and opportunity. What we have lost on the world stage cannot be measured in dollars or tweets.
And while media photos depict the combination of hope, determination and fear that any of us–and certainly any parent–can understand, another series of pictures portray how ludicrous the current administration’s handling of security on our southern border has become: scores of young immigrants climbing and sitting on top of Trump’s big, beautiful, impenetrable border wall in broad daylight, taunting those who would turn them away. As many have said, if you build a wall 30 feet tall, those who seek entry into this country will develop a 31-foot ladder. Until we acknowledge the human story of those involved in this saga, our solutions to border security will be short-sighted, insufficient and ineffective. Only by counting the human cost, can we create a border policy that will be transformative and sustainable.