The Irony of a “Fair” Immigration System in the West
By Aleksei Kaminski
Although additional proof of my citizenship is occasionally requested by the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, why is it that a white American citizen like me is easily let through, while a person of color is much more likely to be “randomly selected” for further inspection or possible detainment? More so, a white American man who returns from his dream vacation in Cancun is accepted through customs without the officers paying any attention to his demeanor. The officers pay attention only to the color of his skin as he casually rolls his luggage waiting to come home to his sky-rise apartment, while a woman from Honduras is singled out and faced with possible detainment or deportation. These are the experiences for people of color and of discriminated ethnicities or faiths, who are not American citizens due to racism and ethnic fear.
According to the September 2016 U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Anti-Discrimination and Anti-Harassment Policy Statement, their policy is “to treat all individuals in a non-discriminatory manner, without regard to their membership in a protected class.” This includes protection against discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, parental status, genetic information, “or any other basis protected by Federal law, Executive Order, regulation or policy.” However, the legitimacy of this policy in practice was reprimanded due to previous and current racial and ethnic discrimination within the American judicial system. For example, the Indiana State Government and the Texas State Government previously held opposition with the Federal Appeals Court in order to prevent the resettlement of Syrian Refugee families. Further evidence of this policy not being implemented in practice was the case of J.E.FM. v. Lynch, in which children of Mexican immigrants were deported without due process.
In addition, populist and anti-immigrant parties have spread across the West into France, the United Kingdom, and most noticeably, the United States to discourage immigrants from seeking refuge and opportunities. Even in Denmark, once considered one of the most politically progressive countries in the world, the recent influx of asylum seekers from the Middle East and North Africa has provoked the Danish government to dissuade further migration. For example, in August of 2016, the Danish government cut social benefits to refugees and immigrants in order to make Denmark seem a less appealing destination. As a matter of fact, the origins of such a bill reflect the growing power of the anti-immigrant and populist Danish People’s Party, which has been declared the second-largest party in Denmark since the last election in 2015. With no doubt, it is clear that xenophobia has manifested itself everywhere.
While many may argue that immigration has privileged many underprivileged people from countries in crises, Francesca Gaiba, a white Italian immigrant who obtained a U.S. Permanent Residence Card as an international student at Syracuse University, objects to such a fallacy. Gaiba states, “This system was divisive and not inclusive” since she was placed into the “Green Card Lottery” also known as the United States Diversity Immigrant Visa Program, which statistically favors mainly Irish, Canadian, and British immigrants and is only awarded on a first-come, first-serve basis to those in American educational institutions. Although the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program has recently helped a selected handful from Africa and mainly Europe, it is evident that the American immigration system has historically aimed for a “whiter America” and its effects are most visible under President Trump’s administration.
Xenophobia has been the catalyst for major humanitarian crises and political actions that target minority groups. For example, the so-called “War on Drugs” endlessly incarcerated Latinos and African-Americans for suspicion of international drug trafficking. Furthermore, recent immigration laws such as the “Muslim Ban” under President Trump’s administration has within American and European countries. In many ways, racial and ethnic discrimination within Western immigration systems have shown that our world, rather than being founded upon equality and justice, is centered upon the phenomenon of white superiority.
We must pressure the United States and all Western European countries to allow more immigrants and promote accountability for such xenophobic and racist actions. If we don’t begin so, we will build graves for our democracies into gulches fueled by racism that will perpetuate the continuum of humanitarian crises and the endless violation of civil and human rights.