The U.S. human rights violations against migrants and the immigrant experience in the “Land of the Free.”

The United States of America. “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free . . . ” The promise sold but never delivered. Our corrupt immigration system has denied those most in need of the opportunity to find a better life for themselves on this soil. To create a home, and to find safety. People fleeing any number of circumstances from violence to war, to environmental disaster to political persecution — many things which the U.S. has a hand in creating or exacerbating — are criminalized for the methods in which they seek their liberation.

In the article “What 8 People Want You to Know About Immigration in America” from Repeller, we gain some insight into the individual experiences of immigrants. 

Zarka Shabir, who immigrated to the U.S. from Kashmir, India in 2013 recounts her experience entering the U.S. “You are a brown woman waiting in line at JFK, fumbling to make sure your papers are in order, wondering whether your name is too jagged, too Muslim, that it won’t roll off their tongue. You watch as people with fairer skin pass you by. Global Entry, they will say, for the ‘pre-approved, low-risk.’ Remember: They said global, not equal.” 

Shabir sheds light onto the unjust ways in which immigration and travel are restricted for some while also highlighting the ways in which even those who have done all of the “right” things are still made to feel unsettled and unwelcome by this system. 

Jennifer Chavez-Petrou, whose parents immigrated from El Salvador around the 1980s, describes her experience growing up in New York. “I felt like a tree that got planted in someone’s backyard 10 years after the original trees had been planted. The grass around me was freshly sowed; the distinction was pointed out to me sometimes, in case I forgot . . . In the midst of my teen angst, I generally accepted the conflicting duality of both feeling American and being made to feel un-American just because I couldn’t trace my roots to the Mayflower.” 

An experience that many children of immigrants share; having only been planted in this soil themselves and having little to no connection to the land your parents come from, yet still being the “other.” Recognizing and accepting that despite your roots being here, they are not enough. You do not have claim to this land or that of your parents. Your roots are tangled, and messy, and unsure. 

These feelings of unrest and of being labeled the “other” within the individual are created by a system that refuses personhood to some while granting it to others. A system that treats immigrants from some places as less than human and a danger to those within its borders. This “othering” is not just reserved for those who immigrated here recently though, but rather it is a label which is forced on anyone who is not of European descent, even those whose ancestors are from this land, and those whose ancestors were forced onto this land.

With things like the “Remain in Mexico”’ Policy meant to curb the flow of migrants entering the country from South and Central America seeking asylum within our borders. And Executive Order 13769 titled “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States,” more commonly known as the “Muslim Ban,” which lowered or even suspended all together the acceptance of refugees from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. Hundreds were detained, and tens of thousands of visas were “provisionally revoked.” But refugees seeking freedom and safety within our borders are not a danger, the only danger to be found is from the very system which sows these divisions. 

The very system that rips children from the arms of their parents with the Family Separation Policy, a so called “Zero-Tolerance” approach to immigration. The very system that has “lost” thousands of these children and is forcing women in their custody to get hysterectomies unnecessarily and without proper consent. The system where I.C.E has a budget of $8.3 billion and C.B.P. has a budget of $14.2 billion, yet the people detained in their custody are sick, overcrowded and are given inedible food. 

I.C.E. and C.B.P. are state-sanctioned terrorists. They implement methods designed to dehumanize, criminalize and harm those seeking a place within our borders. From their agents slashing water jugs left in the desert to aid those traveling from Central and South America on foot to the abuse of human rights imposed on those in their custody. The only purpose they serve is to uphold the system built on White Supremacy while simultaneously “othering” those they deem not worthy of a legal pathway here. 

Those living here illegally are under constant threat from these agencies of detention or deportation, a sure death sentence for some. The watchful eye of the state will gladly strip them of their lives here and send them away, refusing to acknowledge the humanity of these same individuals. 

A “Zero-Tolerance” approach to immigration is inhumane and unjust. These kinds of tactics only create more suffering for those seeking peace. They are applied only to some and are used to uphold a colonial white supremacist system. The criminalization of immigration in this way runs counter to what this country claims but fails to stand for, the things that people are seeking when they look to our borders as a new home.

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