Understanding global citizenship within an individualistic culture.
Part 2 – How does a global perspective relate to the immigration question?
Written by Nora Johnson and Justin Duyao
It is safe to say the immigration question has largely crowded national news headlines this year. As midterm elections approach, action proposed and enacted by the Trump administration has reflected an effort “to goose turnout from his party,” the Washington Post said.
Most recently, in addition to the 2,100 national guardsman already stationed there, President Trump ordered 5,200 active-duty troops to militarize and secure the southern border in anticipation of the arrival of a group of approximately 3,200 migrants headed toward the U.S. border from Central America.
Despite Trump’s insistence on Tuesday, Oct. 29, on Twitter that “this is an invasion of our country,” many of those migrating to the U.S. “have been presenting themselves and requesting asylum,” as opposed to crossing the border illegally, according to Wendy Young, president of the organization Kids in Need of Defense.
This recent event does not stand alone, but comes on the heels of many other propositions by the Trump administration to address the immigration question:
(1) An executive order President Trump is said to be preparing, according to The New York Times, that would counteract the 14th Amendment in revoking birthright citizenship for the children of undocumented immigrants.
(2) The Census Bureau’s recent announcement that it will ask members of U.S. households in 2020 if they are U.S. citizens, against which six lawsuits have been filed, claiming that the Trump administration added the question to target areas with more dense undocumented immigrant populations, according to NPR.
(3) President Trump’s proposal to discourage legal immigrants from using public benefits by denying green card status to those who use social safety net services, according to the Washington Post.
(4) And an executive order in April that separated “more than 700 children [from] … their parents, including more than 100 children under the age of 4,” according to data from The New York Times.
There is no question where the executive branch stands when it comes to the question: “Who deserves to live here?” and “Who does not?”
Kathy Dillion, associate professor of English, has spent the past decade seeking to understand what it means to be an immigrant. Though Dillion said it is easy to blur the distinction between understanding and taking a stance on immigration, she found that separating herself from an American worldview allowed her to develop a perspective empathetic to the plight of migrants and refugees.
“It’s taking it out of that realm of theory and politics … saying, ‘Who are these people?’ What is it like to live with that kind of fear, thinking: ‘I don’t belong anywhere. I can’t go back home. My home is destroyed.’”
From experiences in Russia, Germany, Egypt and Lebanon, Dillion said she has found that one of the most common, fundamental aversions to immigration in all nations is fear.
“But what do you do? Do you just say to these people, ‘You risked your life to get here, only to turn around and go back. It’s obviously going to kill you, but we have a policy, so off you go,’” she said.
This past summer in Lebanon, Dillion lived next-door to both a Syrian family, who had been displaced by the civil war in Syria, and a Bangladeshi family. According to Dillion, the Syrian family had three little boys, and the Bangladeshi family had a baby and a little boy, with another 15-year-old daughter still in Bangladesh.
“They were living in a container until my friends helped them find a place to live,” Dillion said.
Dillion said she does not necessarily believe an “arms wide-open” immigration policy, like that of Greece or Germany, would be the most effective solution to the U.S.’s immigration question, but she also disagrees with the Trump administration’s anti-intervention foreign policy. Most importantly, she said she believes in being a good neighbor to people in need.
“If I have anything to say from my travels, it is to make yourself aware of how people are suffering around the world, and look at the ways we can not just put ourselves first, but think of others — how we can help make the world a more equitable place,” Dillion said. “I think trying to be a good neighbor has to do with a mindset that you’re not going to fear people, you’re not going to treat them badly — you’re going to be welcoming.”
Follow this link to read part one.