Imagine True Greatness / by Karie Luidens

Statue of Liberty.jpg

It doesn’t have to be this way. I mean—the U.S.-Mexico border doesn’t have to be militarized; ports of entry don’t have to meter asylum seekers; whether they’re coming in search of work or safe haven, people don’t have to risk their lives crossing remote deserts just to reach American soil.

If there is a border crisis, it’s one exacerbated if not created by U.S. policies. And U.S. policies can be changed.

Imagine if, instead of demanding we pour our tax money into constructing a border wall, the federal government poured money into expanding staff and resources at ports of entry.

Imagine if, instead of restricting people’s access to those ports of entry, federal agents proactively greeted would-be immigrants with the paperwork and translators they needed to efficiently submit their application for asylum.

Imagine if, now that asylum seekers were proceeding smoothly through ports of entry, the Border Patrol was no longer expected to handle a huge influx of humanitarian cases at remote desert facilities, and was free to pursue its actual mission of monitoring the terrain for criminal activity and performing basic law enforcement.

Imagine if, instead of paying millions of dollars to hold people in detention for days, weeks, or indefinitely, I.C.E. encouraged them to proceed to their sponsor’s homes to await their hearings or directed them how to seek humanitarian aid in the U.S.

Imagine if, instead of dumping busloads of newly-released, traumatized, penniless immigrants on the doorsteps of charities staffed by volunteers and funded by donations, the government redirected I.C.E.’s funding into coordinating each person’s travel plans and providing them with a few days’ worth of basic supplies to ensure they don’t end up suddenly homeless on our cities’ wintry streets.

Imagine if, instead of claiming that the wealthiest country on earth doesn’t have the resources to take in more than a handful of asylum seekers a day, the government reallocated millions of taxpayer dollars from showy military deployments on the border to hiring squadrons of lawyers who can help process their asylum applications as quickly as possible.

Do we Americans really believe that we’re simultaneously the greatest nation in the world, and yet incapable of absorbing a few thousand desperately poor newcomers who just want the opportunity to live safely and work hard and pay taxes like everyone else?

Imagine if, instead of insisting that Congress fund a towering barrier from the Pacific Coast to the Gulf of Mexico, our president honored the words inscribed on the Statue of Liberty and actually welcomed immigrants, asylum seekers, and refugees to our land.

Is it so hard to imagine?