In the context of years of paralysis in Congress, states have taken addressing our dysfunctional immigration system into their own hands. There has been a rising tide of “attrition through enforcement” legislation, most notably enacted in Arizona and Alabama. This “self-deportation” strategy aims to make life so hard for unauthorized immigrants that they have no other options but to flee. In Alabama, local police are allowed to detain individuals suspected of being undocumented. Parts of the law, later repealed, even rendered going to school and attending church risky decisions and assisting undocumented immigrants potentially illegal.
The immigration debate, like virtually all political debates nowadays, is filled with toxic rhetoric and misinformation. Those who cover the issue, also tend to focus on the negative and tragic, not enough on the uplifting and optimistic.
It’s happening closer than you think. Human beings are being exploited for profit every day across the world and in our midst. Individuals are being held against their will as sex workers, sweatshop laborers, field hands, restaurant workers, and even domestic maids, more than there were slaves in the 19th Century – somewhere between 12 to 27 million worldwide.
“They are taking our jobs!” That was a common refrain at the turn of the 20th century in the American West about the influx of Chinese laborers, which coalesced into the nation’s first and most blatant race-based anti-immigrant law: the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. Last week, the US Senate celebrated the passage of a resolution to formally acknowledge and express regret for the discriminatory legislation. The law effectively made all Chinese settlers illegal for over 60 years, and barred access to citizenship and property rights. It was not overturned until it became politically expedient to pit Chinese allies against the Japanese Empire circa World War II