Show me your papers!
by futurebird, Sat Apr 05, 2008 at 04:50:20 AM EDT
My husband and I were on our way home from a warm and happy holiday with my family in Cleveland. We took the train, which passed trough Erie, PA. Then a strange thing happened. US Border Patrol got on the train and started asking everyone if they were from the US. If you said "no" or if you had an accent they asked for a passport.
Later, we stopped again and another Boarder Patrol got on the train. They took a whole family that was sitting in front of me. It was really disturbing. Riding a train and being asked for your papers. What if I didn't have ID with me? Would they have taken me too? Not likely. They only asked to see ID if people looked a certain way. I don't know what will happen to the people.
My views on these issues are complex. US policies about immigration (legal and illegal) are highly contradictory and it is clear that there are companies and corporations who want to be able to continue to use blackmarket labor, and that they find it advantageous that people are scared of deportation. Yet, the bulk of enforcement is focused on the immigrants themselves not the companies who are paying below minimum wage and turning a blind eye to workers without any documentation. Low-grade half-hearted and random enforcement of laws just keeps people in a state of terror. Why on earth should people get rounded up on a train, but walking around NYC is somehow fine? It just seems really random. I'd rather see system that acknowledged the fact that illegal immigrates often pay taxes and are generally good citizens and we should try to get them to stay in the US and become legal. What hurts US workers is all of the off-the-book below minimum wage stuff. And the proposed Guest Worker program? I don't think it works well either since it encourages people to return to their home countries after a number of years. The most productive immigrants stay and build up communities. When are we going to have a policy that looks out for the needs of working class Americans and the needs of working class immigrants (legal or not) rather than the companies who are playing these two groups off of each other to their advantage?
And why on earth are they rounding up people on trains that don't even cross a border? It was really scary.
After asking these questions I did some research. It turns out that within 100 miles of the US border it is possible to do something called "expedited removal." Now, to my eyes this law is intended to send people back who have recently crossed the border. But, it's not being used in that manner. The people on the train had clearly been in the US for years, they knew English and seemed like normal middle-class New Yorkers. Erie, PA is within 100 miles of the Canadian border. If the Border Patrol can use racial profiling to tell that these folks weren't from the US I can use it to say they weren't from Canada.
Shouldn't a Border Patrol stop near the Canadian border focus on looking for illegal Canadians? Furthermore, since the border is in the middle of a lake, shouldn't they focus only on people who are soaking wet?
What I'm really trying to say is: can't we find a way to make the process of immigration more organized without ripping long-time residents of this country off of a train leading to a great deal of disruption in communities? Isn't there a better way to do this? What will happen to that man's family, his job, his apartment, now that he's gone? They took a family too? Will they care if the kids were born in the US-- If they are in school? I mean-- can you imagine?
We support things like NAFTA so that goods and capital can move freely over the borders. Corporations operate increasingly as if there are no borders. But, as the wealthy and the powerful gain more freedom it seem like regular people have less. Please pass this information on and tell everyone you know who might be in danger to stay away from Erie, PA. If you care about this issue this group could use your help: http://www.familiesforfreedom.org/