“Call out the National Guard.” “Lock down the border.” “Not in our town.” These are just a few of the friendly and heartwarming welcome phrases uttered by the loving Americans in Murrieta, CA this week in protest of illegal immigrants being brought to the border patrol facility located there. The buses carrying the immigrants were turned away by the angry mob; another proud American moment destined to be inducted into the American Hypocrisy Hall of Fame. It will look terrific right next to the Cliven Bundy statue. “Where is the AHHoF,” you ask? It’s located in Washington, D.C. right at the intersection of Constitution Ave. and Independence Ave.
Well, actually Constitution and Independence don’t intersect in Washington; and they don’t seem to intersect in Murrieta either. Except for a handful of Native Americans in Murrieta, everyone there is either an immigrant or descended from immigrants. It’s an interesting human quirk that we feel entitled to the things we need while simultaneously oppressing others with the same needs. It was ok for my ancestors to flee poverty and oppression in search of a better life in America, but it’s not ok for today’s oppressed to do the same.
American’s have been historically schizophrenic about immigration. On one hand, we love to hold ourselves out as the great beacon of hope; erecting statues and enshrining poems that solicit the world to send us its tired, poor and homeless. On the other hand, when said tired, poor and homeless take us up on our offer, we work zealously to repel them and treat them badly while doing so. At best it’s false advertising; at worst it’s just plain inhumane.
The good folk in Murrieta are quick to point out that this is not about immigration, but rather illegal immigration. But, the nuances and legalities of American immigration policy may not weigh strongly on the mind of a Honduran mother whose survival instinct is to flee with her children – just as mothers have done since the dawn of humankind. And if respecting the law was the message of the Murrieta mob, they might consider the laws they violated while refusing to let those buses pass.
It’s true, America’s immigration policy is a shameful patchwork of conflicting, politically-motivated, discriminatory laws and rules that place bigotry, greed and fear above human compassion. Consider that, in South Florida, a Cuban refugee and a Haitian refugee both arrive near the shoreline on the same raft. The police are waiting on the beach to repel them. The two refugee’s jump off the raft and swim in to shore, trying desperately to dodge the police officers. Through sheer determination, both get past the police and then collapse on the beach – exhausted. The Cuban is welcomed and released into the country. The Haitian is deported. How is that fair?
I understand the anger of the ignorant mob in Murrieta, but I don’t understand why they are directing their anger at these poor, tired, homeless people; you know, the ones mentioned in the poem by Emma Lazarus on the Statue of Liberty. America has invited these people to come. It is disingenuous and un-American to treat them like invaders. If the people of Murrieta don’t want them, then perhaps the people of Murrieta should make a journey of their own. They could start by hopping on some buses to the Statue of Liberty to take down the damn poem that is causing all the problems. They could even put up a new plaque of their own. It could read: NO TRESPASSING. WE HATE YOU. STAY THE HELL OUT!
Or, they could travel to Washington DC and direct their anger at the Congress whose politics and petty differences are responsible for an immigration system that mistreats immigrants and places undue hardship on border communities and states. One thing is certain: We’re not going to solve the immigration issue by hating immigrants.