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Don’t Strip Migrants Of Their Humanity

There are children dying from neglect and abuse in United States custody at the border. Think about that. Reasonable people can disagree how to handle mass migration or whether undocumented immigrants should get driver’s licenses. I am having trouble sympathizing with those who do not see how holding refugees in squalid camps is completely un-American and inhumane.

Immigration policy is a thorny policy issue that both parties have failed to adequately for some 30 years. My friends on the right correctly point this out. Thus, we have a system overwhelmed by people fleeing disaster and hunger through a dangerous path to our border from South and Central America. The immigration predicament is not new. The intentional cruelty and neglect from a White House and border agents is.

The President and his allies in media and government have effectively stripped immigrants and refugees of their humanity over the last three years–labeling them “illegals,” “aliens,” “invaders.” It is legal to present oneself seeking asylum under International law and United States law. Regardless of their immigration status or documentation, they are people. In many cases they are women and children who barely survived a thousands mile journey to our border.

The White House has decided on a policy of cruelty as a deterrent to stop “illegal immigration.” Not only is it not working, it is separating children from their parents, leaving them in overcrowded detention camps with poor hygiene and improper food and resources. Many have died already.

Conditions are getting more horrifying by the day. Diseases are spreading. A government lawyer argued before a federal judge why the Executive agencies should not have to provide the children toothbrushes and soap.

AOC was criticized for calling them concentration camps. If we’re arguing over the label, we’re missing the point. Nazi death camps, Soviet gulags did not start out as killing factories. Fundamentally, they are government-run facilities designed to keep undesirables (Jews in Germany, Japanese during World War II, South American refugees) in quarantine. This is happening in America. Congress can and should pass laws to provide more resources or a new system of processing refugees. But a law will not stop the purposeful dehumanization and brutal treatment of these migrants.

Once their humanity has been removed, any treatment is justified. History has shown what a powerful bureaucracy can do to a persecuted “other.” There are many people who are indifferent to the suffering. Still worse, there are many using their suffering as a weapon. Besides that though, everything is wonderful.

Derek Smith is a Frewsburg native.

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