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Denying Entry to Migrants: Our Racist National Shame

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The morally bankrupt immigration policy of the United States with its Gestapo-like Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency seeking to round up desperate people flies in the face of what this nation should value. The people crossing the border are escaping really horrible things. And now they aren’t coming because the enormous financial investment and personal risk up to and too often including death isn’t worth it if they are going to be deported. But they have nothing to return to in their home nations. They are coming here for good reasons, after all.

Reiner Ríos Gómez, who is from Honduras’s capital, Tegucigalpa, lifted his shirt last week to expose a scar about 12 inches long in the middle of his back, where he said a machete hit him as he fled the robbers who were trying to steal his pay: 2,800 lempiras, or about $119, for half a month’s work in construction.

To escape that life, he set out for the United States on Jan. 15, making it as far as Sonoyta, Mexico, a city on the Arizona border where roadside stalls sell the camouflage clothes and backpacks that migrants use to cross to the other side. Then he called a cousin in Houston.

“Why are you coming?” he said his cousin asked him. “They’re going to send you back.”

So Mr. Ríos, 33, settled down at a shelter in Sonoyta, unsure of what to do next. “I have nothing to go back to,” he said. “And I don’t know if there’s anything for me on the other side.”

Customs and Border Protection reported this week that the number of people caught trying to enter the United States illegally from Mexico had fallen in February to the lowest level in five years. The Trump administration said the sharp decline was a sign that its promises to hire more enforcement agents, deport more people and wall off the border were discouraging people from even trying to cross.

People are leaving Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador, escaping horrific violence. How can we turn them away? Because we are a horrible racist nation, that’s how.

This is the modern equivalent of the 1930s refusal to allow Jewish refugees into the United States, dooming them to death. There is no significant difference between that crime against humanity made in the name of keeping America white and the current crime against humanity in the name of Make America White Again. While I don’t advocate for completely open borders, largely because there are policy implications that can’t be ignored, I certainly advocate for significantly increased levels of immigration. People like Ríos need a chance to live a dignified life. The United States should represent the place where people can do that. But now we are refusing that life to him and to millions of other people in the name of whiteness. It’s disgusting. Future Americans will see this as a national shame. And then they will probably start excluding people once again in the name of whiteness or national identity or whatnot.

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