The Barbarism of US Immigration Policy

Since Donald Trump took over the White House, many US residents have been repeatedly shocked by the cruelty of his immigration policy.  From the detention of returning relatives at US airports when his Muslim ban was announced to the separation of children from their parents seeking asylum on the southern border, the cries of alarm have finally focused attention on US immigration policies.  As should have been expected, Trump’s supporters have pointed out that his policies are just an extension of those in place since at least 2001.  The acknowledgement of this is supposed to somehow absolve Trump from his harsh enforcement of the policy.  Similar criticism has come from the left, where the point being made is that much of the Democratic Party is also implicit in the atrocity that is US immigration policy.  When all is said and done, the important aspect to this is that many more US citizens are becoming aware of the way Washington’s agencies treats humans crossing US borders and their newfound knowledge is making them angry.

Earlier this year, Verso Books published an important and timely text by journalist Eileen Truax titled We Built the Wall: How the US Keeps Out Asylum Seekers from Mexico, Central America and Beyond.  An immigrant herself, Truax’s narrative tells the stories of individuals and families under threat from police, military and other forces in their home countries and their attempts to gain asylum in he United States.  Simultaneously, she provides a recent history of US immigration policies, a look at who profits from those policies and a hopeful call for a new look at human migration and for more humane policies.  While her focus is on the future, she does not let those in previous administrations off the hook for their complicity.  Reading the book is an emotional roller coaster—at times one feels tears welling up and at other times one works to keep their anger on hold.  Exasperation and determination are two words that come to mind while reading the stories of those hoping for asylum and those aiding them in their quest.

Truax focuses primarily on the stories of a couple families and immigration advocates.  She provides both a history of the families’ interaction with Mexican authorities and those from US immigration agencies.  These stories include murders, threats, inaction by US courts and abuse from US immigration officials.  It is clear that the stories in this book are not unusual when it comes to the lives of asylum seekers from Mexico and Central America.  Truax’s narrative includes unsung heroes and nameless officials “just doing their job.”  It is a job that makes them complicit in a crime against humanity that is far from being maned that by the people who run the world.

We Built the Wall was published before the Trump administration ordered the separation of asylum seeking families at the border and before the repeal of the order allowing women fleeing from abuse to claim asylum.  It was published before various administration officials heard recorded cries of toddlers being ripped from their parents.  It was published before those officials’ response to hearing the recordings rationalized the practice by repeating the mantra “the law is the law.” We Built the Wall was published before news was leaked that the Trump administration intends to have ICE begin removing legal immigrants from the country and just as the private prison industry was given the funding to build five new detention facilities. Still, it is still a blistering indictment of the immigration policies of the United States and an eye-opening testament to its innate cruelty.

A key aspect of the debate on immigration that often seems to be forgotten is that one is talking about human beings. Women, men, children; families, friends and lovers.  Their humanity is no less than that of those debating their future and no more than that of those who wear the uniform of the immigration authorities ushering them through the system.  Truax’s text refuses to let the reader forget this.  Indeed, it is the foundation on which the book is based.  It is this truth that those officials and politicians busy contriving more ways to deny that humanity do not want US residents to consider.

Personal stories of inhumane treatment of individuals by the authorities serve to emphasize the actual barbarism of those authorities. However, they can also disguise the universality of that barbarism. In We Built the Wall, author Truax manages to convey both individual atrocities and the general atrocity of the US immigration control system itself.  In her undertaking, she has provided an important read for those desiring to understand and change that system.

More articles by:

Ron Jacobs is the author of Daydream Sunset: Sixties Counterculture in the Seventies published by CounterPunch Books. His latest offering is a pamphlet titled Capitalism: Is the Problem.  He lives in Vermont. He can be reached at: ronj1955@gmail.com.

September 18, 2018
Conn Hallinan
Britain: the Anti-Semitism Debate
Tamara Pearson
Why Mexico’s Next President is No Friend of Migrants
Richard Moser
Both the Commune and Revolution
Nick Pemberton
Serena 15, Tennis Love
Binoy Kampmark
Inconvenient Realities: Climate Change and the South Pacific
Martin Billheimer
La Grand’Route: Waiting for the Bus
John Kendall Hawkins
Seymour Hersh: a Life of Adversarial Democracy at Work
Faisal Khan
Is Israel a Democracy?
John Feffer
The GOP Wants Trumpism…Without Trump
Kim Ives
The Roots of Haiti’s Movement for PetroCaribe Transparency
Dave Lindorff
We Already Have a Fake Billionaire President; Why Would We want a Real One Running in 2020?
Gerry Brown
Is China Springing Debt Traps or Throwing a Lifeline to Countries in Distress?
Pete Tucker
The Washington Post Really Wants to Stop Ben Jealous
Dean Baker
Getting It Wrong Again: Consumer Spending and the Great Recession
September 17, 2018
Melvin Goodman
What is to be Done?
Rob Urie
American Fascism
Patrick Cockburn
The Adults in the White House Trying to Save the US From Trump Are Just as Dangerous as He Is
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
The Long Fall of Bob Woodward: From Nixon’s Nemesis to Cheney’s Savoir
Mairead Maguire
Demonization of Russia in a New Cold War Era
Dean Baker
The Bank Bailout of 2008 was Unnecessary
Wim Laven
Hurricane Trump, Season 2
Yves Engler
Smearing Dimitri Lascaris
Ron Jacobs
From ROTC to Revolution and Beyond
Clark T. Scott
The Cannibals of Horsepower
Binoy Kampmark
A Traditional Right: Jimmie Åkesson and the Sweden Democrats
Laura Flanders
History Markers
Weekend Edition
September 14, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Carl Boggs
Obama’s Imperial Presidency
Joshua Frank
From CO2 to Methane, Trump’s Hurricane of Destruction
Jeffrey St. Clair
Maria’s Missing Dead
Andrew Levine
A Bulwark Against the Idiocy of Conservatives Like Brett Kavanaugh
T.J. Coles
Neil deGrasse Tyson: A Celebrity Salesman for the Military-Industrial-Complex
Jeff Ballinger
Nike and Colin Kaepernick: Fronting the Bigots’ Team
David Rosen
Why Stop at Roe? How “Settled Law” Can be Overturned
Gary Olson
Pope Francis and the Battle Over Cultural Terrain
Nick Pemberton
Donald The Victim: A Product of Post-9/11 America
Ramzy Baroud
The Veiled Danger of the ‘Dead’ Oslo Accords
Kevin Martin
U.S. Support for the Bombing of Yemen to Continue
Robert Fisk
A Murder in Aleppo
Robert Hunziker
The Elite World Order in Jitters
Ben Dangl
After 9/11: The Staggering Economic and Human Cost of the War on Terror
Charles Pierson
Invade The Hague! Bolton vs. the ICC
Robert Fantina
Trump and Palestine
Daniel Warner
Hubris on and Off the Court
John Kendall Hawkins
Boning Up on Eternal Recurrence, Kubrick-style: “2001,” Revisited
Haydar Khan
Set Theory of the Left