In recent days, we’ve heard prominent Democrats talking about the need for the Party to prove that it’s “strong on border security.” Some Democratic politicians have actually advocated letting Donald Trump build his obscene wall as part of an overall budget deal. Others want to spend billions of dollars on drones, on increasing the size of the Border Patrol, and on scanners and other high tech components of a “virtual wall.” Supporting those measures would be a disastrous path, one that panders to Trump’s anti-immigrant racism while alienating the Party’s more progressive base.
If this happens, it would be an echo of the Democratic Party’s shameful complicity in mass incarceration. That racist policy was promoted with similar rhetoric–“tough on crime”–while locking up millions of people of color. Now, once again, Democrats seem to be considering attacking poor people and people of color in order to placate reactionary voters and funders. Once again, the consequences would be glaring violations of human rights. Once again, the Democrats would lose all credibility with those who believe in justice for all. And once again, if it does go in that direction, the Party would come to regret the ugliness it helped unleash.
Immigrants and refugees aren’t the enemy of this country—they are its backbone. They support our economy, increasing its health and dynamism. They enrich its culture. We should be welcoming them, not treating them like an invading army.
We don’t need “stronger border security.” Instead, we need to rein in the heartless brutality that our government is inflicting on refugees and immigrants. We need to stop the violations of international law; stop militarizing the border. We need to extend citizenship to Dreamers immediately. We need to put a halt to the shocking, racist policies that have ripped thousands of families apart; a halt to the concentration camps in the desert; a halt to refugee children dying of curable diseases and dehydration; a halt to the profiteering private prisons where immigrants languish for years.
We don’t need drones and fancy scanners. Instead, we need to help heal the Latin American countries devastated by wrong-headed US policies. We need to stop supporting dictators and death squads. We need to terminate the disastrous “war on drugs” that has spread death and destruction throughout the hemisphere. We need to stop the economic subjugation of Latin America through neoliberal trade treaties, something that has led to widespread poverty–and created millions of refugees.
We don’t need more immigration agents. Instead, we need to bring out-of-control US immigration agencies to heel–to stop their reign of terror. We need to stop the Border Patrol from getting on Greyhound buses, demanding papers, and dragging people out because they look Latino or Arab. We need to stop ICE from ambushing people at courthouses and from raiding workplaces; from deporting our long-time, law-abiding neighbors. We need to stop TSA from groping us and searching our laptops and phones, from singling out Muslims for searches, from bullying all of us like a government-funded mafia.
The current debate about “border security” is a pivotal moment for Democrats. Your decisions now will determine your relationship to the electorate for years to come, and your place in history. Nancy Pelosi said that Trump’s proposed wall is “immoral.” She’s right. How is the “smart” barrier that some Democrats now wish to build any less immoral?
We are watching: immigrants by the tens of millions, families of immigrants, supporters of immigrants, and all who care about justice. Don’t expect us to vote for Democrats who embrace “Trump-lite” on the borders. Don’t expect us to support politicians who embrace racist anti-immigrant policies, no matter how “high tech” their barriers may be.
Democrats should take a stand in solidarity with our immigrant and refugee sisters and brothers. One way or another, immigrants, refugees, and their supporters are determined to defeat racism and xenophobia. Are you with us, or against us?
The Jackson Heights Immigrant Solidarity Network
These Groups Have Agreed to Publicly Support Our Open Letter