Whether it be dealing with the anticipated arrival of several hundred migrants from Central America, rejecting the claims of the so-called dreamers who remain undocumented or in simply shutting down visa applications, the past two years have shown a distinctive and near-inhumane shift to the right in terms of migration policies globally. And that is indeed a sad development when even nations such as the United States — which for so long has been a beacon of freedom and hope for many — close their doors to refugees.
For generations — from the earliest years of the 13 British colonies that formed the foundation of the US, to the opening of its vast frontiers, the creation of its cities, the harnessing of all its mighty resources — America has drawn people from around the world, drawn to the new land with a new hope that they might indeed begin a new life and might build a better nation. With the election of President Donald Trump and with a right-wing electorate force-fed on the firebrand preaching of talk-show TV and websites propounding conspiracy theories, the welcome mat has been rolled up, the doors shut and the borders effectively sealed by the sorry attitude of a multitude that has forgotten its roots.
In recent months, we have seen children of new refugees snatched from their parents and jailed in separate facilities; we have seen children die in custody as their families waited in vain to complete the documentation; we have seen dreamers, who have contributed so much to the modern American economy, being put on notice that they are no longer welcome in the only home that they have known; and we have seen a US federal government shut down because of the president’s volte face on a spending bill that did not provide the funding for his ‘wall’ as he caved to the ravings of the talk-show rabble. There are millions of Americans who today are the descendants of illegal migrants, now proudly patriotic to their nation, simple people — not criminals — who believe in the American dream offered to so many and now turned into a nightmare of jail cells, separations, steel slats and a militarised border.
There is now an institutional small-mindedness and meanness that pervades the policies of several countries on migration. It is an attitude that, in essence, ignores the realities of the present. It is contrary to the better angels of our nature. Countries need more humane policies. The world’s refugees need our help and compassion.