Thursday, June 29, 2017

Thoughts on ICE and Our Local Migrants

I live here. Have all my life. I’ll admit, that for a long while, I wanted out. Glens Falls, this area, felt small in size and in mind. But lately, I have developed a new appreciation for my small town.  It started on January 21st of this year. My family and I took part in the NYC Women’s March that day and while marching, my son, who stayed home, sent me a video of a sister walk Glens Falls. And it wasn’t just a few people, there were lots, lots and lots. My heart cracked a bit.  I began to think I was wrong about my perceived narrow-mindedness of the community.  And since then, I have tried to  revel in what Glens Falls and the surrounding area offers.  

With all the hate, vitriol, sexism and bigotry that seems to ooze from every pore of the universe since Trump took office, this small town has helped to insulate me a bit.  When terrorism reared its ugly head in international megacities, I went to read in the quiet of our small but fabulous library and took a walk down tree-lined streets. When news stories showed the face of racism, I would take solace in the multicultural faces of my fourth grade students and smile at the color blindness of the children and educators in the wonderful elementary school in which I teach.  When the president of my own country flings ignorance and malevolence like monkeys fling dung, I find relief in the sweetness of the sounds of local restaurants and area musicians and the lap of the lake on the shore.

However, more recently, the reports of ICE infiltrations in places as close as Saratoga and Hudson Falls, has allowed the soul-sucking hatred to seep into the walls I’ve built around my life from the isolated idyllicism of my hometown. It is hard to block out hatred that is so close to home.  

I know there are some of you that are shaking your head right now. Perhaps you think that these ICE raids are necessary. “Jobs for Americans” you may be chanting.  It is easy, I think, to perhaps imagine an entire cultural group that ICE is rounding up as non humans, without faces, or hearts or feelings or everyday lives. But all I can think about is the humanity of those that risk being rounded up like cattle from the all powerful ICE.  

Like it or not, these are human beings. They tuck their children in at night. They kiss the foreheads of their spouses. They have favorite foods that they cook. They help to change a flat tire of someone helpless on the side of the road. They go to work everyday and do jobs that most of us wouldn’t even spend one eighth of a second contemplating. They help their school-aged children with homework and do all they can to make ends meet with the paltry pay they receive since they are unable to take part in our country’s social services. They have hopes and dreams and aspirations. The same ones we all have; to provide for their families. And honestly, how can we argue with that?

And I know, there are some that are not living this way. There are indubitably criminals among them. But can you name one kind of population that doesn’t have a criminal element? And if we are talking fact here, research shows that crime committed by illegals is sparse compared to native born citizens as is incarceration. Don’t for one second forget that the people being rounded up locally contribute to our community. They are church-goers and produce growers and volunteers. Once again, for emphasis, these are human beings.

And for those who say they should seek legal citizenship, do some research. There is very little chance of obtaining that status for those without money or a particular professional skill. And most migrants came here because they didn't have money or any chance of prosperity in the country in which they were born.

And then there are the children. Have we sunk so low that we can’t find compassion for families? Just imagine what the children of migrants feel when they lay their heads down to sleep. Or when they walk out the door to their summer job or to school.  Just imagine the terror you’d feel if there was a REAL chance that you’d come home to find your parents have disappeared. Pretend to be your own children feeling what migrants’ children feel and I guarantee you’ll see these ICE raids differently.

I for one can’t stand to think of the suffering  our local hard working migrants are feeling. And because it is so local, I can’t insulate myself from it, nor should I. Nor should any of us. I was encouraged by the advocacy of Fr. Tom mentioned in the Chronicle article today. But there has to be more that we can do. But what? It seems to me that our local community, our leaders, our innovators could think of something to help alleviate the fear and desperation of this significant part of our community. Taking a stand is start. And this is mine.