This morning I listened to The Daily’s Interview with a Border Control Agent, which gets at a topic I’ve been wanting to speak about for a while.
I fundamentally don’t agree with this agent on the big topics. I don’t agree that “America should be first and all other countries second”. I don’t agree in “Legal Migration good, Illegal Migration bad”. I don’t even agree in fences around our homes. However I can understand the points that he is bringing in terms of the hypocrisy within America’s immigration “system.”
Though it’s looking like there is some media coverage that is starting to finally get at the point–e.g. John Oliver’s discussion of the nearly mythical yet popular idea of legal migration–these important details about what it is like and how hard it is to actually navigate the immigration system legally is hardly mainstream.
For generations, and definitely as long as I can remember living in the states, both “side of the aisle” as they say, have wanted to have “strong borders”, that is, at least, borders. Borders at all. Borders that can discern who comes in and who stays out. Some system that allows some people to migrate and others not to. A system that is built around a system for legal migration so that those who would like to come in simply … “fill out the paperwork and apply to come in” (the ridiculousness of this, the expense, labor, near impossibility of this, has been widely discussed yet hardly registered). This system has always been spoken about as some kind of “logic”. Of course there isn’t room for everyone! Of course we cant give everyone the rights to all the wonderful things we have in this country simply by coming in! Of course one must come in legally. So “common sense” says. All these things were spoken about by Democrats and Republicans as though they were quite obvious. Well there are not and never were.
I do not agree with them. I have always thought that migration should NOT be an issue of “legality.” Kein Mensch ist illegal — no person is illegal. I believe in open borders. Period.
So why do I find myself so frustrated with some progressive voices, even though I agree with them about Trumps inhumane border policies? Because they aren’t, and never have been, radical enough and now the people who are suffering the most are those who are detained at the border. Those who came out about their status. Those who were living for years in the double bind of working illegally with some kind of impunity.
Some liberals seem to be forgetting their consent to the system as it stands. I’d like to speak about the hypocrisy with which the united states has been operating for quite some time and why it frustrates me so much to watch democrats now act as though they had nothing to do with the way in which the immigration system is functioning now.
For one thing its nearly impossible to enter the united states LEGALLY while poor. The United States, like most Western Countries, already has systems both written into law and quite unwritten that make it nearly impossible to enter the country without some money saved up. Without a job opportunity. Without someone who says that they are sponsoring you and want you to enter and pays an expensive visa. Even if you do get such a work opportunity, the visa is normally limited and after the permission or job runs out, the assumption is that one “goes back home.” They want to see your job, they want to see your bank account statements, they want to see the bank account statements of your parents. Fuck “MERIT” — They want to know that you have the $$$$. That is true the whole world round. PERIOD.
Although many people are shouting at the moment about merit based systems or financial based systems, these have always been in place and they are in many many countries. I do not agree with these systems. I believe that poor people should have the “luxury” or at least the possibility to migrate the same way that wealthy people do–getting the cheapest flight possible, entering with a stamp on their passport and hanging out for a while. Seeing if there is work. Finding love. Doing nothing in particular. Seeing if they can find a job. If they find a job, asking for permission to stay. Not a career, not necessarily “skilled labor,” but a job that they are needed for. They others want to pay them for. That simple.
Having migrated to Germany 15 years ago, I know well what it is to wait and wait for permission to stay. I renewed my working visa every two years for 15 years until I was finally granted permanent residency. Why did the German government wait and wait and wait? Because they said that i did not earn enough money. They said that I was not financially stable. They wanted to see how long it would take me to finally decide that i just couldn’t make it in Germany. When I still wasn’t gone in 15 years they finally gave in. But there was nothing legally telling them they had to let me stay. There were no lawyers (I couldn’t afford them). It was simply the waiting game, the staying on the right side of the law, and filling my taxes year after year, trying to play by the game, meanwhile unable to ask for any social assistance, neither, of course, the right to vote.
What frustrates me so much about the Democratic party in the United States on this issue is that they are too conservative to say, lets open the borders, but they claim to hate the way that the laws they helped to pass have criminalized migrants, deported migrants, separated families. Yet they are too afraid to take the step to open borders. Instead they seem to rather make migrants wait in the shadows, unable to come out as illegal and unable to actually migrate legally if they are poor.
There is no proper system in place for applying for political asylum and receiving an efficient adjudication. Asylum seekers who are detained at the border have always been detained and forced to try to find representation from behind bars. Others who have made it “in” apply for asylum (if they can find help, especially pro bono assistance) and wait for years — sometimes 20 or more years — for their cases to be heard, meanwhile working and paying taxes, unable to receive real assistance, paying every year for work permits while they wait with the threat of one day receiving deportation papers if their case is to be denyied.
This is no solution. Having laws on the books that make it nearly impossible to legally enter this country while at the same time acting as though the laws shouldn’t be carried out is sheer hypocrisy. Its not better to wait and work illegally so that wealthy and semi-wealthy employers (Democrats and Republicans alike) can take advantage of illegal workers.
This is not a solution.
We need to allow people to enter freely with stamps at the border, allow people to decide if they can find work. Stop patronizing and controlling and paternalizing behaviors towards migrants.