Immigrant children and families being separated by our government is a despicable policy and must stop now.
It seems like a cheap and immoral way for the President to push immigration legislation and show how he “gets Congress to do something” and claim a “win.” It’s pathetic and a warped view of how our politics should work.
Congress, by nature, isn’t necessarily an efficient body. It’s supposed to be a deliberative one, so hastily pushing action through may not give us the kind of “comprehensive immigration reform” we actually need and opens the very real possibility for bad policy to be pushed through too quickly, crafted behind closed doors, and scrutinized insufficiently. And while Congress has created the means for this situation to arise and shares some of the blame for it, this specific policy of family separation is the President’s prerogative. In other words, this is his policy. He is executing it. He could stop it at this moment.
Pundits have said that the President is trying to outwardly show he is pushing a hard line on immigration, but I wonder if that is just a front for racism: “We don’t want their kind here. They’re not as special as we are, so we can treat them as sub-human. Then it’s not a violation of human rights. In fact, let’s get out of that whole ‘U.N. human rights’ business.”
This very situation is probably why some of those Founding Fathers, when designing the system of governance, thought political parties risky. The branches are set up to “check” and “balance” each other. But what happens when the power of the executive has increased over the years and the party in Congress is the same party as the President’s? The check between the branches is blurred and those Senators and Representatives in Congress will show greater loyalty to their party than to the project of American Democracy. The party in power has to maintain their power, which means in order to show solidarity as a party, they have to back the President, even when he clearly lacks basic moral judgment. The opposition party doesn’t have enough political power to pass legislation to stop the policy on its own. In the midst of these political battles for power, there are real lives being affected.
There’s far more at risk here than preserving political power and we have to do more than just condemn the actions, because at an instinctual level we all know it’s wrong. We don’t need elected leaders to state the obvious. What’s at stake is losing the promise of democracy. We need a strong stance against this president and immediately halt this practice of separating families.
It’s hard not to take this policy personally. Not only were my Navajo ancestors rounded up by the U.S. Army and held at a detention camp in the late 1860s, but many of my family members were taken from their families to boarding schools. My family still bears the scars of these acts. It is an intergenerational trauma we are still coming to terms with and was propagated by a government led by elected leaders who didn’t see Indigenous Peoples as equals.
I also married into it. My wife Carolina fled from a dire situation in Venezuela. She came alone and came with practically nothing, all her family back in Venezuela. She overstayed her visa and fell among those millions of others in the shadows: a part of society, but not a full-fledged member of it. When we met over a decade ago, she had decided to leave the United States for Spain. She stayed obviously, and through marriage she first became a permanent resident and then a citizen. I saw her gain a confidence and self-assuredness that I had not seen before because she didn’t have to live in fear anymore. Now we have two beautiful daughters. My family is a family of immigrants, even though I am indigenous.
I also have my mother-in-law living with us. She left a Venezuela that had spiraled into an authoritarian regime, with food shortages, a serious lack of medical supplies, and rampant crime. Although she wanted to stay in her homeland with her family, she could no longer live in safety there. She had an opportunity to live with us here in Utah. There are so many who do not have that chance, which is why so many good people risk so much to come to the United States.
I cannot imagine the kind of destitution and desperation someone would have to face to leave their homeland to seek out safety and opportunity — then only to find a government that would separate them from their children. I would be destroyed if I could not be with my daughters. I would be permanently ruined. For those of us in relative security, how do you think you would react?
The road to a “law and order” society has pushed us towards paranoia and xenophobia. We do not need to be searching out immigrants inside our country who have committed no crime, but not be born in the United States. It is so simple to make them a part of our society, especially if they were brought here as children. Additionally, not only should we cease funding ICE, but dismantle it. We can regulate our borders, but shrouding our society in a blanket of fear is the antithesis of democracy.
Otherwise, I hate to point out the blatantly obvious as a Native person: years ago, the country we all know was stolen from hundreds of sovereign nations, real political entities replete with societies, with genocide or assimilation as the prevailing policy. There is no “higher moral ground” anyone can make by saying, “This is a country of laws and they’re breaking them,” when in fact the foundation of this society is littered terribly with disgusting, inhumane laws that should never have been followed or created: slavery, indigenous genocide, stolen land, Jim Crow, subordination of women, and so on.
The promise of democracy is that we learn from our worst historical moments and not repeat them. At the very least, we can treat people — our fellow human beings — with dignity and respect, and we can keep them together as a family unit. The best we can do is open our arms completely, invite them to become part of our society, add to it, and grow forward together. I submit we shoot for the best we can do. In principle, it is who we should be[come] as Americans. It will make us stronger and will make us better.
Let’s stand together for these families. Let’s attend the rallies, write the letters, make the calls, and get involved. Let’s urge our elected leaders in Congress to act swiftly and humanely. Let’s support them and show appreciation for standing up to President Trump regardless of party affiliation. But let’s also make sure we elect leaders in November who can actually neutralize the immoral and vacuous actions of President Trump. And let’s hold our family members closer and tighter than we normally do and realize that there are good people within our borders, in our country, who have been forcibly separated from their families and locked in cages.
— James Courage Singer
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James in the News
Here you'll find articles about James' work in the community and news on his political endeavors.
Jul. 12, 2018 | Indian Country Today: A plan for Indian nations and democracy in the 21st century: Indian Country should have fair representation in Congress; that's the democratic promise.
Jun. 24, 2018 | Salt Lake Tribune: Commentary: As the Democrat in the race, I'd rather debate Curtis.
Apr. 9, 2018 | Salt Lake Tribune: Commentary: Sexual violence and harassment are men’s issues. And they’re leadership issues. Rep. John Curtis shows a lack of leadership on a serious issue.
Mar. 6, 2018 | Salt Lake Tribune: To ‘help forge our path of healing forward’ after Bears Ears, Utah tribal leaders are asking for a place on the governor’s cabinet.
Mar. 6, 2018 | KUER: Tribal Groups, House Dems Call For Creation Of Indian Affairs Cabinet Position
Oct. 9, 2017 | Salt Lake Tribune: American Indians gather to celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day in Salt Lake City
Oct. 3, 2017 | City Weekly: SL Council Welcomes Indigenous Peoples Day
Sep. 18, 2017 | UPR: The Wellsville Sham Battle On Monday's Access Utah
Sep. 6, 2017 | Salt Lake Tribune: It’s 2017, but people in Utah still put on ‘redface’ for an inaccurate re-creation of an American Indian vs. Mormon battle
Jun. 8, 2017 | The Daily Universe: Navajo man seeks Senate diversity, challenges Hatch
May 5, 2017 | KUER: Navajo Candidate Latest In Young, Progressive Democrats Running For Congress
May 4, 2017 | Salt Lake Tribune: Navajo candidate announces bid as Democrat for Hatch's seat
Apr. 27, 2017 | Cache Valley Daily: Navajo candidate announces bid for U.S. Senate
Jan. 27, 2017 | City Weekly: "Make America Smart Again" Water protectors congregate to denounce Trump's DAPL reignition
Jan. 17, 2017 | Salt Lake Tribune: It's 'more than just clean water now': Utah activists protest Dakota Access Pipeline
Oct 31, 2016 | FOX 13: Police make several arrests in Dakota Access Pipeline protest in SLC
Oct. 12, 2015 | UPR: Cultural Appropriation on Monday's Access Utah