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Stars and Bars Forever

We are all recently shocked by the news that ICE detains thousands of underage children migrating north in a remote Southwest facilities, penned up behind chain link fences in scenes more reminiscent of Pitbulls and Parolees than transitional juvenile housing, even if it is detention. We are outraged, we expected more of Obama’s administration. Our American Exceptionalism sensibility is offended. Social media spheres exploded with commentary.

Children at the Nogales, Arizona facility watch a World Cup Soccer match while awaiting processing.
Children at the Nogales, Arizona facility watch a World Cup Soccer match while awaiting processing.
Photo by Pool/Getty Images
NOGALES, AZ - JUNE 18: Two young girls watch a World Cup soccer match on a television from their holding area where hundreds of mostly Central American immigrant children are being processed and held at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Nogales Place
Photo by Pool/Getty Images

Our offense, however, is somewhat duplicitous in nature; Gitmo still stands. When news of privatized centers for border detainees reached the media some years ago, and repeated reports of abuses by both state and private facility guards mushroomed, the information did not sufficiently jolt us into action. Overcrowding and inhumane conditions in these facilities has been the norm, not an unfortunate new development.

President Obama, in his address regarding immigration reform two days ago said he sent a clear message to our international partners (read: countries South of the Border) and sent VP Biden to discuss methods for addressing the problem of so many lone child immigrants. How successful this will be is subjective, though, much to the chagrin of politically conservative orthodoxy, there are demand-side economics and home country politics with which to contend.

Countries ravaged with war, experiencing generations long poverty conditions, and unstable political situations, combined with the marketing of this country as the ‘Land of Opportunity’ converged to provide us this present humanitarian crisis. We shine as an indefatigable example of safety and stability like a lone star twinkling in the inky blackness of econopolitical deep space. But our star is incredibly busy preparing to jettison its coronasphere with unprecedented rapidity. Congressional intransigence, politically rabid religious factions, military posturing, strategic drone strikes/domestic surveillance, and the purposeful creation of this particular humanitarian crisis on our own soil (perched precariously atop a string of others,) does not for a determinedly powerful future make.

In the town of Murietta, California, protests flared against immigrant detainees arriving in their town to be held in US Customs and Border Patrol facilities ahead of being transferred to Immigrations and Customs Enforcement. The level of contention that exploded from locals as well as out of state radicals that showed up expressly for the purpose of protest - inspired by the town's mayor, no less - was unparalleled, and portentous. Nationwide, xenophobia continues to interweave itself into great American fabric, traveling in lock step with legislative laggardliness. Comprehensive Immigration Reform might pass if it were not for obstructionism, but there is nothing guaranteed in politics. Back in Murietta, just in time for Independence Day, tempers flared again, and the impressively widening contest resulted in five arrests today.

We are sorely lacking a solution. Comprehensive reform is one part of a package of solutions that must immediately be put into action, not just put forward for a vote. Additionally, the blind allegiance to supply side economics and the War on Drugs, along with the Congressional insistence on a barrier fence need to immediately cease. The first two are societal evolutionary coelacanths which should be carefully mounted for display in the museum of failed geopolitics. Together they are more responsible for regional destabilizations and the northward migration of populations than the last one, but what we know inherently from decades of a war on drugs is that cartels love the drug war. It keeps their prices and profit margins high, and their product always in demand. A perfectly inelastic demand curve, not unlike that for energy. Closing off the border with a fence would immediately have the same effect; driving up prices for the transit, and instantaneously making the crossing infinitely more dangerous than it already is.

As we relax back into an evening of fireworks displays, barbequed delectables, and All-American crafted brews, we should be cognizant of our ancestry. Not a single individual likely to read this post originated on this continent. We all migrated here. Some more recently than others. But, like the Native American father in the video says, ‘you are all immigrants’. Immigrants have been the integral thread in our great American historical quilt, and have always been attached to the word ‘contribution’. While we celebrate our national heritage, let us forever remember that heritage includes a long legacy of immigrants, immigration, and immigrant communities. Simultaneously, let us do the right thing for the thousands of detained underage migrants who have made an arduous journey from one humanitarian crisis, and landed squarely in the midst of another, for that would well and truly be American.