Monday, August 31, 2015

Migrants, Deportations and Barriers

The United States, a land of immigrants, is watching as existing generations of immigrants reject the new waves of immigrants, particularly those with a touch of color in their skin from south of the border. Politicians are campaigning on a platform that would deport them all and build a massive wall on our brown border (leaving the great white northern border open). England, with growing support from fellow European Union members, is railing against the open borders between EU countries that permit “illegals” to enter Europe and settle where they please. The Dominican Republic has begun denying citizenship or even lawful residency to ethnic Haitians born in the DR, and perhaps whose forebears were born in the DR, if the initial distant relative came to the DR illegally. Deportations have begun. Colombians, even those in Venezuela legally, are being asked to leave Venezuela, perhaps even forfeiting their businesses and homes, as tensions between the two countries escalate.
A Czech online periodical, trying to show the inhumanity of immigrant bias, conducted a mock poll to see if readers would vote for a return of Hitler if he could get rid of recent immigrants and migrants entering the country. They were stunned when 53% said “yes.” They pulled the poll offline. Hungary is building fence to keep them out, Nordic countries are watching xenophobic anti-immigration right wing politicians winning office, and droves of migrants escaping the horrors of civil wars and the threat of ISIS in North Africa are invading Europe by sea… if their boats don’t sink first.
An abandoned refrigerated truck (Hungarian license plates), with the bodies of perhaps as many as 71 decomposing corpses of stranded migrants, was discovered in the summer heat just outside Vienna, Austria at the end of August. The Italian Coast Guard found 50 bodies in the hold of a ship carrying migrants from Libya the day before. “A boat packed with mainly African migrants bound for Italy sank off the Libyan coast on [August 27th,] and officials said up to 200 might have died.”, August 28th.
The rise of right wing fears of immigration, even in countries which would face contracting populations (including Germany, Italy and even the United States) without immigration, have become a fairly uniform and standardized global response everywhere. Political refugees have flooded Lebanon from the war in Syria. Turkey is watching people escaping ISIS horrors settling into massive refugee camps. The wars in Africa have pushed populations out of their homes, even as droughts have forced many others to flee based on impending starvation. There are no vast new habitable lands left on planet earth to escape to anymore, and space travel hasn’t yet provided an alternative. Those who own turf want to hang on to that turf against new comers… unless that turf is barren, war-torn or otherwise degraded. Then they want new turf. It’s called “hope” as the earth faces the greatest global humanitarian crisis the world has seen since World War II.
Reacting to the strong wave of anti-migrant feelings rippling through her nation, and particularly in response to the discovery of the truck outside Vienna, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said: “‘We are all shaken by this terrible news that up to 50 people have lost their lives because they got into a situation where smugglers did not care about their lives,’ said Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel, at a news conference at the Vienna meeting [convened by the EU to deal with the migrant crisis]. ‘Such a tragic death.’
“Ms. Merkel emphasized what she called the need for Europe to pull together and ease the migration crisis, part of the biggest wave of migrants since World War II. But the meeting ended on a discordant note with no apparent consensus on how to proceed.
“The death toll at sea is already greater than 2,500 and is rising almost every day, with news reports on Thursday that a ship carrying hundreds of migrants had sunk off the coast of Libya. Now the truck discovery has made it clear that the illegal trade in humans has broadened from arranging perilous journeys across the Mediterranean to profiteering from the tens of thousands now pouring in through the Balkans.” New York Times, August 27th.
Countries that profess to be guided by notions of Judeo-Christian values, offering hope, support and sustenance to the unfortunate, seem to have dumped that entire basic tenet of their faith into perpetual purgatory. Our own Bible Belt seems to be high on the list of regions that are pushing to rid themselves of immigrants who came to this country for a better life.
Whether this is a Darwinian or Malthusian response – scarce resources further imperiled by climate change amidst third world population growth – or a reaction to a rather steep decline among rich Western nations facing a writing of their economic well-being as Asia rises, the word is “fear.” As with so many economic crises over history, finding scapegoats and building political power bases by attacking them appears to be a modern response to an atavistic human trait: fear of change, terror at the thought of massive change.
But whether your values come from your faith or perhaps a simple moral reaction to a callous world, if you have those human values, they will be tried within a crucible of fire over the coming years and reflected in the coming elections like no other. Will the upcoming elections repeal the New Testament as many voters sincerely continue to believe that they are genuine Christians with Christian values even as they vote against the basic values of their most Holy Book? Time will tell, but it is easy to be noble and giving in a time of plenty; the true test of moral and religious strength must come when times are difficult and challenging for those asked to give.
I’m Peter Dekom, and where are those wondrous American values of kindness, empathy, charity and care?

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