On Nov. 7 of 2020, we will know with certainty which country is America. Is it the one founded on ideals and inclusion, or is it the one based on hatred and exclusion?
Is it the one whose founders proclaimed “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that their Creator endows them with certain unalienable Rights, which among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness?”
Or is it the one in which an electorate will once again re-elect a president who stoked fear and racism throughout his campaign and presidency in order to divide Americans and solidify his base at the expense of a unified America?
The choice will be made on Nov. 6 when we cast our votes and decide whether an America that sows divisiveness is the America we want. On that Election Day, Americans from every state will determine if closed borders based on color is reflective of the welcoming America to which our own ancestors came for a better life for themselves and their children.
Not too long ago, I attended an exhibit at the Phillips Collection museum in Washington, D.C. This particular exhibit was entitled “The Warmth of Other Suns, Stories of Global Displacement” and included historical and contemporary works by some 75 artists from nations across the globe. The exhibit provided historical experiences of migration to and within the United States as well as the current plight of refugees around the world. It was quite effective in conveying the universality of migration as an experience shared by so many.
Of particular interest to me was the work of Griselda San Martin whose exhibit consisted of photographs and was entitled “The Wall, 2015 to 2016.” Over the last five years, the artist focused her work along the U.S.-Mexican border. She was specifically interested, as her work revealed, on how the narrative was shaped to vilify immigrants and immigration as a whole with false and racist stereotypes.
Her exhibit consisted primarily of photographs taken of “Friendship Park,” which had been the only federally established binational meeting place along the U.S.-Mexican border. It was here where families separated by immigration laws would be able to gather and spend time communicating across the border through the gaps in the border fencing.
One photograph of which I took in particular, I noticed was entitled “Opening the Door of Hope.” This photo was shot in 2016 and depicted the practice by the U.S. Border Patrol to periodically open a door in the fence to allow family members to reunite for three minutes.
Now welcome to the Trump administration. In 2018 the U.S. Border Patrol announced that they would no longer hold these events and that the doors would remain shut indefinitely.
Furthermore, a new policy was instituted in which visiting times would be reduced from four hours to 30 minutes. That changed the number of people that can be in the area from 25 to 10 and prohibited the taking of photographs or video recording. What the photos depict more than anything is the strength of family, a strength stronger than any wall.
Trump likes to point to former U.S. President Barack Obama as having done the same thing.
Interestingly, Trump’s entire presidency has focused on undoing all things Obama from the Paris Climate Accord to the Iran Nuclear Deal, to regulations on clean air and water, yet he incorrectly points to Obama as the justification for separating children from their parents. Well, Obama may have been called the “Deporter in Chief,” but his deportations focused on violent criminals, and it was as part of these deportations that children were separated.
With Trump’s efforts to stem the tide of all immigration, both illegal and legal, by brown-skinned immigrants from Central and South America, vast numbers of children are separated from their parents who came here to seek asylum and bring their families to safety.
If you cannot imagine what it is like for any of these children to be separated from their parents, try to imagine your own children or grandchildren being separated from their parents.
If you cannot imagine what it is like for any immigrant of any age to be locked up in cages in which there is not enough room to sit let alone lie down, imagine standing in line to get in to see the latest blockbuster movie or concert not for hours, but for days.
The conditions deliberately created by this administration regarding immigration along the southern border were created to serve as a deterrent to immigration short and straightforward. The fact that the refugee crisis is at historic levels would indicate to most that the tactic is not working. How horrific must conditions be back home to subject oneself and family to these created conditions right here in America?
Investing in improved and speedier processing of asylum seekers might be money better spent and be much more reflective of the vision for this country that our founding fathers, not to mention the Statue of Liberty, had in mind.