Illegal Immigrants Are Human Beings Too

The Daily Beast published an article yesterday about immigrants who are held in border patrol cells in inhumane conditions.

"Las hieleras, or “the freezers,” is how immigrants and some Border Patrol agents refer to the chilly holding cells at many stations along the U.S.-Mexico border. The facilities are used to house recently captured border crossers until they can be transferred to a long-term Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention facility, returned to their native country or released until their immigration hearing. According to interviews and court documents, many immigrants have been held for days in rooms kept at temperatures so low that men, women and children have developed illnesses associated with the cold, lack of sleep, overcrowding, and inadequate food, water and toilet facilities."

Picture your childhood. Can you hear the laughter of family get-togethers? Do you remember the secret you shared with your best friend at a sleepover? Do you smile when you think about Grandparents taking you to an ice-cream shop? What was that book Dad always read to you at bedtime? Have you mastered Mom's chicken noodle soup recipe, or do you still crave it when you get sick? Do you have a favorite coffee cup? Are the walls in your house covered with family photos? What about your baby's first blanket, is it still in your drawer?

Now imagine leaving all of it behind – everything you ever knew, everything you ever owned, everything you loved and understood. Your family, your friends, your neighbors, your pets, your language, your memories, your home. What would it take for you to go? Close your eyes and put yourself in the room in that moment when you are grabbing a bag, throwing in a few necessities before rushing out, not knowing what lies ahead, suspecting you might not live another day – whether you stay or go. Do you see yourself? What do you feel - knowing that running away with nothing, to a place you don't know, is the best option you have? What are you telling your children as you put your life and theirs in hands of strangers? Now tell me – do you truly believe these people came to the US just to steal your jobs, steal your possessions and mess with your taxes? Do you truly believe that they were just too lazy or irresponsible to take care of themselves, so they crossed over to take advantage of your social welfare system? More importantly, is the label of "illegal immigrant" a reason enough to treat them like lesser human beings?

"I have the perfect solution...don't cross the border illegally.  If you act like a criminal you will be treated like one." This is one of the comments to the article. May I ask - this is a perfect solution for whom? How far removed is this commentator from realities of this world, not thinking about illegal immigrants as breathing human beings who suffer from pain, loss, fear, hunger, humiliation, despair and sorrow? May I ask another question - is this how we treat criminals? Or are criminals, let them be mass murderers or pedophiles, still treated humanely as long as they were born in the United States?

Where is the human(e) in us? We support animal charities, drop off food for families in need, volunteer in retirement homes. How come we donate to people whose houses were destroyed in hurricanes without thinking twice, yet spit on people who are forced into such terrible choice? These are not punks who were bored one afternoon and decided to go smash some windows. What happened to “you shall love your neighbor as yourself?” Does this not mean to love all persons, everywhere? Or does it really mean to love only our actual neighbor, whose house has about the same real estate value as ours and whose car fits the upper middle class standards?

The laws and rules that every country has are in place for a reason. That goes for immigration laws as well. But that does not give anybody a right to be unkind and hateful. You were born in the United States. They were not. How is this your accomplishment? How is this their fault? It's not. You could be them. They could be you. You are lucky and privileged to make judgment. You are lucky enough to be asking in the comment section: "How cold was it? That's an easy number to come with, a [verfiable] fact. What is the number, and why was it not included in your story?"

I am not a romantic fool suggesting we all just hold our hands and sing kumbaya. I do hope that one day all people will be equal. For now, George Orwell had it right - we are all equal, but some of us are more equal than others. Of course, he was talking about pigs, wasn't he? Detained illegal immigrants don't deserve to be treated like pigs. You don't need to welcome them in your house. You don't need to offer them your help. But you also don't have to throw them into freezing cells and question the definition of cold. You have a choice. A choice to be humane.

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