Immigration has even a lot of liberals scratching their heads trying to figure out how we should feel about the various issues around the phenomenon of fellow human fleeing terrible conditions in other counties.
The daunting complexity of the issues around the phenomenon of asylum-seekers just got a bit clearer with the outcry over the Trump administration’s separation of children from their parents. What we learned—if we didn’t already know it— is that national borders don’t coincide with the border around our human sympathy. Humanity trumps nationality.
AG Sessions came up with that unassailably logical argument, that if asylum-seeking parents don’t want to have their kids taken from them, all they have to do is not try to cross the border. Made a lot of sense except for the omission of what has turned out to be the key element here: the innocence of children, no matter what their race or country of origin, and how we feel about that.
The use of the word “criminal” for illegal immigrants just doesn’t feel accurate.
“Zero tolerance” feels wrong. “America first” feels wrong in this context– even if you want to put America first.
Here on Cape Cod, the phrase “illegal aliens” feels wrong for any of our immigrants from places such as Brazil, Jamaica, and eastern Europe, who just don’t feel like aliens but rather interesting fellow humans who enhance life here.
Although it receives less emphasis, another complicating factor of the immigration puzzle is that granting asylum is not just charity. As the dominant economy in the world, we have a lot of influence on how, and how well, every part of the world fares. While we aren’t the world’s cop, we bear responsibility (as Europe’s former colonial powers bear a lot of responsibility for the misery of African former colonies.). Those seeking asylum here and in Europe are fleeing intolerable circumstances for which we are at least partly responsible .
Border laws and practices that don’t take into account these emotional facts, are not only inhumane and immoral, but, as we well know by now, just not practical or enforceable.
Denmark has been in the news recently for a policy to deal with one immigration fear, that the invading hordes, as they are seen by some, will overwhelm and degrade the host country’s way of life. This policy also involves separation of children from their parents.
The Danish plan is to require, starting at age l, that all children of specified “ghettos”– areas of heavy immigration, majority Muslim–be separated from their families for at least 25 hours a week for mandatory immersion in Danish values and language. The New York Times story called this assisted assimilation “harsh.”
My first reaction was to think that judgment itself harsh. It seems not unreasonable or illiberal for natives to feel protective of a cherished way of life–the very things you offer asylum-seekers–and to insist that it remain dominant.
On the other hand isn”t that (in addition to the laws of the land) what required public education already does? Nobody is arguing that immigrants anywhere be allowed to break laws or skip school. Why this intensification of the process in Denmark?
In our country, the big problem, after the abolition of slavery, was segregation and it is now illegal. Couldn’t the Danish policy be characterized as the opposite of segregation, integration, a big, warm embrace of their new citizens?
In our experience of the collision of cultures, the ways of the old country, are inevitably going to result in the assimilation to and ascendency of the new culture, the new world. The parents will fret but the young people will naturally want to assimilate so as to be able to run with their cohort. We have been confident enough of how this goes that we have felt free to value the contributions (music, food, etc.) made by the old culture. Is there any reason to believe that Danish culture will be enchanced by aspects of Muslim life?