This is, of course, not true. It is the propaganda of racists who want to cast any dark skin as someone to be shot, tortured, or otherwise dehumanized and punished for “invading” our country (e.g. we could take away their children and store them like cattle).
In fact, most of us are within three generations of an immigrant. Our families for the most part are built on the backs of immigrants.
Our Hater in Chief himself has grandparents who—in desperation or simply in aspiration?—immigrated to America. He married two foreign women (one of possibly dubious legal status before he married her), and had five of six children by them. Thus, America has allowed his foreign-enhanced tribe to prosper. He insults his own family with diatribes about the uniformly “bad people” that cross our border.
You’ve seen me reflect on the sad fate of my family, that was displaced by the invasion of Germans and Russians into Lithuania, and who fled for their lives, with a baby buggy and a wash pan. They were not alone; they were part of 12 million other people that Hitler’s regime “dislocated” from a quiet life in their country of origin and the country of their ancestors. (They were not part of the 10 million murdered.)
I just read a book that gave me some new thoughts:
THE DISPLACED by Viet Thanh Nguyen
First, let’s distinguish between an IMMIGRANT and a REFUGEE (or a DISPLACED PERSON). IMMIGRANTS can be people who voluntarily choose to move to another country. They might be able to bring their wealth with them, and they might plan for a smooth transition professionally.
A REFUGEE is a victim of bad luck. Something in his/her country changed, and he/she is running for her life. The motivation is FEAR OF DEATH. Thus, you can say, “I’ll live in a refugee camp, even for thirty years, rather than die.” (per a Tibetan lady I met in Nepal)
In that time, you might have children, and they might become “dreamers” who hope for some of the benefits that citizens have: access to jobs, social security, education, welfare, maybe health insurance. How long can that go on? I’m sure our “dreamers” are heading for a third generation without status as a “stateless people.”
It’s true that an influx of refugees can destroy an area that is not prepared to care for them.
I saw Calcutta inundated with Bengalis who fled death in West Bengal, because they were Hindu, and West Bengal had decided it was for Muslims. In Calcutta (1970), we stepped over sick and dying people on the sidewalks. Social services consisted of picking up bodies from the streets in the early morning.
Controlled immigration, and controlled refugee intake and placement, are the only way to ensure we are not overtaken by all the miseries of the whole world. The key factor is: what is a “HUMANE” response to the unlucky. And, ideally, one not biased for people of certain color, race, and religion. Or gender.
If all people have a right to live and prosper, let’s allow that all people do not have a right to live and prosper AT OUR EXPENSE and DESTRUCTION. That’s “invasion.” This is the root of our political debate: how far does our humanity, and our capacity for assimilation of the unlucky, extend?
The Zombie Invasion movies capture the fear: people who are not “really people” will eat us.
Here are some insights from THE DISPLACED book:
- People you know are refugees. They are “hiding in plain sight.” You just don’t realize it, because they’ve learned to look like you, act like you. They are not zombies. They may have trauma in their family, but so might yours: different kinds of trauma.
- A lot of refugees don’t want to tell you the gory details. Some feel healthier keeping the secret. Anonymity and silence feels safer to them, after being attacked for their identity in the home country. They might suffer from PTSD—a mental illness that only became a concept after 1980, and offers an explanation for the inability to “get over” trauma.
- It’s about BAD LUCK. Being unwanted where you are. Unwanted in a refugee camp. Then maybe unwanted as a second-class citizen.
- Refugees are rarely criminals. They are stateless for reasons of disaster, not because they were “bad people.” In fact, you’ve heard of former scientists, doctors, intellectuals, and business leaders, who are cleaning your toilets right now. They were in the wrong place, for their identity: Hindu, Jew, Muslim, Falun Gong.
- Family separation is common. A few members might escape while others are captured or killed. Someone might be left behind. Older people might have chosen to stay behind and risk death rather than leave their homes.
- Assimilation by some in the family can alienate them from the others. You might be resented by your family for succeeding in the new country because you’ve become strange to “your own kind.”
- Refugees have had to make tough decisions. They are TOUGH. They might have seen things that we do not think are civilized behaviors. Even things that we did not believe people could do to other people.
- Children just want to be normal and fit in. Having strange parents and strange customs at home is a challenge. Other children can add to the cruelty the refugee has already experienced.
- People in the host country expect you to be grateful. They are giving you the gift of a second chance. But it doesn’t feel like good luck, most of the time. And everybody in the new place may not be nice to you. You don’t really recover the feeling you had “at home.”
They are models for residents who have become complacent and complain about their “lack of opportunity.” What doesn’t kill you can make you strong.