Zero Tolerance? It’s More Like Cruel and Unusual

Zero Tolerance?  It’s More Like Cruel and Unusual

I can’t believe this is real. I can’t believe we’ve reached a point of such moral bankruptcy. Innocent children, as young as 8 months old, are being torn from their parents at the border. This is the kind of thing you read about in history books or about oppressive regimes in some distant country. We are a country of law and order along with Iran, Russia and North Korea.

The thing that makes America different is our humanity. We are supposed to be a country of refuge. ‘Give me your tired, your poor. Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.’ When did we lose sight of this? I look at my kids and see their innocence. I would do anything to protect them. I see these kids at the border in cages, crying while border agents make jokes about them. This cruel heartless policy is keeping me up at night. I’ve been forcing myself to look beyond the emotion I’m feeling to think of other things we could do to solve this immigration problem.

The first thing that I have to point out is that it is not illegal to cross the border seeking asylum. It is perfectly legal to go to a port of entry or present yourself to a border agent and request asylum. At this point a person or family is interviewed and turned over to Health and Human Services to be detained, given to family members or sponsored by an American family. They then have to prove their case in immigration court. The asylum seekers are allowed to reside legally in the US until the courts reach a decision in their case. If they are granted the asylum status, they have a path to citizenship that takes years. If they are denied they are returned to the country of origin. In order to start this process a person must be on American soil which is one of the reasons people cross the border.

(This is a very simple description of the asylum process. There’s more information here )

Here are a few things that we could do to deal with the immigration problem instead of traumatizing children for an adults transgressions:

If these people must be detained, detain them together. There is no reason to separate the families except to be cruel. It’s just as simple as that.

Building a wall is a stone age solution to a modern problem. The people walking across the border are fleeing violence, persecution or political oppression. Building a wall would put an obstacle in front of the most vulnerable group of people. Drones is a cheaper way to detect border crossings making it easier for asylum seekers and border agents to address the issue.

The majority of noncitizens in the US are people that have overstayed their work, school or vacation permits. The US doesn’t have a system in place that keeps track of expired visas. We could start by getting an agency that is in charge of registering/reregistering work permits. We could have a system that checks in with people as their permit nears expiration and make determinations about which permits to extend which would hold people accountable to their permit.

There are plenty of companies that knowingly and willingly employ non citizens. By doing this we create a culture that doesn’t require people to go through the proper channels. Companies pay under the table or pay them less so it works out for them. It’s time to stop having it both ways. We can’t constantly berate people for crossing the border to find work and say nothing about the people who employ them. If we’re really gonna talk about ‘zero tolerance’ the companies must be punished too.

I’m sure there are many other solutions that can be explored and this is the reason I am totally ashamed of the policy at the border. Instead of looking for real solutions we are criminalizing already traumatized people. This is one of the many things that makes me feel extremely urgent about this upcoming election. We need people that are willing to find consensus with one another to solve the very real problems that face our country.

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