What would happen if you had to leave your home today and, most likely, never return? Would you pack your favorite quilt, your family photos, your favorite casserole dish even?
Most Americans have never thought about the terror of being separated from their loved ones and the support that their community provides. It’s simply not a question that not many of us consider — but maybe we should.
According to the New Humanitarian, over two-thirds of the world’s refugees come from just five countries. And in the United States, immigration restrictions remain a hot button topic. While not the majority, 41.7% of the U.S. population was afraid of immigration in 2018, according to Chapman University. That is a big chunk of the population and a vocal one who can affect current policies in a negative way.
In 2017 (and again in 2019), Republican senators attempted to pass the RAISE act, which would half the 1 million immigrants allowed in the United States annually. Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., and Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., proposed with the RAISE Act that reducing immigration would increase American worker’s wages and, in effect, restore the elusive American dream.
Why then, are we so afraid of immigrants and refugees in the United States?
A lot of this sentiment is based in fear of the unknown, fear of new cultures, fear of diversity. And this fear is masked within false “facts” like immigrants stealing jobs and lowering worker’s wages, as reported by Perdue and Cotton.
Fear is a powerful weapon, and it’s one that anti-immigration proponents lean on heavily. This sentiment is not new, either. For centuries, we have been afraid of new people coming into our country, with anti-immigration sentiment towards the Irish in the 1800s being just one of many examples. Which is funny, if you ask me, because early colonizers were themselves immigrants to the continent.
The current refugee state is not one that can be ignored. It is a crisis and it’s one that we can help to resolve. Although much of the refugee crisis occurs across the Atlantic Ocean, there’s one much closer to home: Northern Mexico. Although President Joe Biden has pledged to undo many of the issues started by then President Donald Trump, he’s done little. In fact, only 11,400 refugees were admitted in 2021, which is the lowest number since 1980.
How can this mean that the Biden administration is keeping its word in increasing the humane treatment of refugees?
Even further, due to a court order, Biden reinstated the Remain in Mexico protocol initially instated by Trump when he was in office. Again, how can this mean we are making progress towards humane treatment? This reinstatement means that Mexicans seeking asylum are still subject to incredibly cruel treatment through a messy, broken system that no one seems to be even working to fix.
According to the New Humanitarian, under Title 42 — a policy that allows the government to expel anyone without letting them seek asylum — 990,000 individuals have been expelled during the Biden administration. That’s nearly One million displaced individuals (two times those displaced under Trump) who have been denied a chance for a safe life. One million individuals who are forced to remain in unsafe, unstable living conditions. One million individuals potentially forced from their families, their loved ones, their support systems.
It is not enough to simply feel neutral about this issue, or to not think about it. People are living in fear daily and as a world leader, we should be setting an example for other nations. And right now, we simply aren’t.
While awareness and the spread of knowledge is a great first step. It isn’t enough. We need proactive laws and regulations that allow us to support refugees and immigrants always.
If you feel overwhelmed by this problem (as it is easy to feel), even a simple donation to an organization such as the New Humanitarian can help. Or take things a step further. Write to your congress people and ask them to take steps in helping to undo Title 42.
Put on the pressure because without it, people’s lives are at stake. And everyone deserves the right to their human rights.
Abigail Peterson is a certified therapeutic recreation specialist working with a variety of indigent populations and a master’s of social work student at the University of Utah.