“I believe we…have stepped over a line into the [inhumane],” wrote the Texas state trooper who reported that his superiors ordered troopers to push migrants, including women and children, back into the Rio Grande.
“We need to recognize that these are people who are made in the image of God and need to be treated as such.”
In his email, the state trooper details horrifying abuses and injuries as a result of barbed wire and other barriers the state installed, including a 19-year-old girl stuck in the razor wire suffering from a miscarriage. He also details how barbed wire and floating barriers have forced people to go into deeper parts of the river, resulting in multiple drownings.
While pushing children into a river is certainly a new low, cruelty itself is nothing new. Since at least the 1990s, U.S. Presidents have enacted deadly but stealthy policies aimed at deterring migrants by driving them onto more dangerous routes through the use of increased enforcement and physical barriers, surveillance technology, and regional agreements with transit countries. These measures only succeed in more people drowning in the Rio Grande, or dying of thirst in the desert, or getting killed in Panama’s treacherous Darién gap.
Andrew Mahaleris, Governor Abbott’s press secretary, made their intentions to harm abundantly clear in a statement defending the state’s deterrence strategies: “The absence of razor wire and other deterrence strategies encourages migrants to make unsafe and illegal crossings between ports of entry, while making the job of Texas National Guard soldiers and DPS troopers more dangerous and difficult.”
How did we get here? Where do we as a country draw the line?
Extremist, anti-immigrant policies aren’t only ramping up at the border. Florida’s new immigration law imposes harsh penalties on anyone caught aiding undocumented migrants, with massive ramifications.
The law imposes felony charges on anyone who "knowingly and willfully" transports an undocumented migrant into the state, with no listed exceptions, even for family members. Florida could now arrest parents simply for driving their mixed-status family to school, or a married couple for driving their undocumented partner to work. Florida will also no longer recognize driver's licenses issued to undocumented migrants from some states.
Businesses caught employing undocumented migrants will also be punished, meaning many people are avoiding going to work or fleeing the state. Hospitals and medical providers that accept Medicaid are now required to ask people about their immigration status; though this is not supposed to impact treatment, it will likely prevent people from seeking medical care out of fear of deportation.
The Texas and Florida governors have both been sending migrants to California, by bus and plane respectively. Even if migrants give their consent to be transported, using people as part of a political stunt is just another way to dehumanize migrants.
In the face of so much cruelty, we struggle to maintain hope. As a country, we can do better. How does one convince elected officials to enact humane policies if they refuse to acknowledge the humanity of migrants?
The present may be bleak, but that can’t stop us from fighting for a better future, one that accepts migrants with compassion and dignity. Here are a few things that you can do today to stand in solidarity with migrants:
- Take action HERE to tell President Biden to restore safe and orderly access to asylum
- Help welcome migrants in your local community. Here are some ways to get involved in a few areas:
- Support the work of Quixote Center to advocate for humane immigration policies and accompany migrants throughout the Americas