America’s Racial Border

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July 30, 2014

By Anoop Prasad, Senior Staff Attorney Immigrant Rights 

In the past few months, over 57,000 refugee children from Central America have fled gang violence in search of protection at the United States-Mexico border. Politicians have argued over what is causing the children to flee – coyotes smuggling the children, irresponsible parents, ineffective governments, or the Obama Administration’s enforcement priorities.  They agree across party lines that deportation is the appropriate response to what they have labeled a “border crisis.”

America is in a state of deep crisis.  It is not a border crisis but a crisis from within. Anytime elected officials call for the mass deportation of children to conditions where they are likely to be killed, we face a moral crisis.  This crisis is rooted in a fundamental failure of America to care across color lines.  The failure to see the humanity of these children is the same failure which justified the U.S. funding genocide in Central America in the 1980s. The crisis is a failure to value the lives of people of color equally as white people.

Any American concerned about the well-being of these children must grapple with this crisis.

The root cause of why these children are here is the same as it has always been for refugees and immigrants in America.  Simply put, “we are here because you were there.”   The U.S. has staged coups in Central America for decades, propped up brutal dictatorships, funded genocide, destabilized economies through free trade agreements, and created the gangs terrorizing these children through the war on drugs and its deportation policies.

Asian-Pacific Islanders are all too familiar with the experience of these children.  During the 1970s and 1980s, refugees fled war and genocide in Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam to the U.S.  Through a secret war, the U.S. military dropped more bombs on Laos than any other country in world history.  American carpet bombing in Cambodia killed a half million people and destabilized the country leading to the rise of the Khmer Rouge and a genocide that cost another three million lives.  Just as angry mobs today greet the children, Southeast Asian refugees were targeted by protests, a mass shooting and murder in Stockton, California, and a rebirth of the Ku Klux Klan in Texas.

In 1903, W.E.B. Du Bois noted that the problem of 20th century America was that of the color line.  It remains equally true today.  Immigration is where the battle over the color line is waged today.  Until America is able to fully value the lives of a Pakistani child killed in a drone strike, an African-American child killed by police, or an El Salvadorian child seeking refuge after watching a parent murdered, it will be unable to fully value the lives of the 400,000 people it detains and deports each year.  

Until we address America’s failure to care for people of color, we cannot address immigrant justice.

*Featured image can originally be found here

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