Sadly, U.S. Immigration Policy Has No Shortage of Outrages
September 15, 2022
Tune in any news outlet with a right-wing editorial slant, and it won’t be long before you encounter stories, narratives being pushed, of activities at the U.S.-Mexico border intended to frighten or enrage you, the viewer. This could be how drug seizures are depicted as if the government is somehow not doing its job, or it could be the dehumanizing portrayal of men and women seeking asylum in this country as some kind of threat to the safety of people living in the United States.
The racism, xenophobia, and fear-mongering wrapped up in these narratives are a gross misuse of the responsibilities held by the media. Their job is to inform, not to poison people’s minds with distortions and misinformation. But what’s also really tragic here is that, when it comes to immigration and issues at the border, there are plenty of issues that are worthy of our rage! But that rage is misplaced time and again, as a result of campaigns based on fear, not compassion.
The real issues worth being mad about are the result of a very deep hole the U.S. has dug in recent decades through both inaction on immigration policy and direct action, most notably by the previous presidential administration, to make life somehow even more hellish for some of the most marginalized people in the world — those who’ve fled their homes and countries in hopes of finding peace and security in a new land.
An especially egregious example of this was the previous administration’s March 2020 move to invoke Title 42 of the U.S. Code to prohibit entry of asylum seekers, using the possible spread of COVID-19 as the excuse. This order has been misused for over two years to illegally block migrants at the border, even though public health experts repeatedly declared the order has no true medical basis or justification. Title 42 has resulted in over 1.6 million expulsions of asylum seekers back to harm and over 10,000 incidents of kidnapping, torture, rape, and other violent attacks against migrant people.
No court in the United States has yet said the policy itself is legal, as legal challenges so far have only upheld it from the standpoint of administrative practice and capacity. The Immigration and Nationality Act says that seeking asylum is legal no matter how you cross the border.
As Joan F. Neal, NETWORK’s deputy executive director and chief equity officer, has noted: “Seeking asylum is a fundamental human right. The continuation of unjust, immoral Title 42 expulsions dishonors the God-given dignity of migrants and violates the internationally-recognized right to seek asylum. We must restore asylum at our southern border.
Delays by the current administration in rescinding this policy prompted more than 80 Catholic Sisters from across the U.S. to come to Washington last December. Carrying signs and praying, they marched past the White House, demanding an end to this racist policy. When President Biden finally moved to rescind Title 42 expulsions this spring, a federal judge issued an injunction blocking the administration’s action.
The inability to rise above our dysfunctional immigration policies is also worth people’s anger. Administration after administration, Congress after Congress, has failed to pass meaningful immigration reform, despite the fact that they have the power to bring millions out of the shadows and into the recognition of their dignity as citizens. Bishops and popes have called for these very policies — whether some version of the DREAM Act for people who entered the U.S. as children or comprehensive reform that provides a path to full inclusion and participation in society for everyone. Rather than recognizing the power they have to affect transformation of so many people’s lives, our leaders have squandered this opportunity, instead allowing our politics and society to indulge the lies of racism and white supremacy.
Christians should allow their hearts to be broken open by the plights of the people who think that, for all its flaws, the U.S. is still somewhere they want to make a home. We could build something beautiful, an inclusive future for our immigrant neighbors in this country, in which everyone’s contributions are valued and rewarded — if we just let the right things make us angry.