By Pritam K. Rohila
Immigration was a hot issue during the recent election campaign for US presidency. A wall along the U.S. border with Mexico, registry of Muslims, and extreme vetting of Muslim refugees were offered as solutions to the problem.
Border walls, including Roman England’s Hadrian Wall and the ancient China’s Great Wall, have rarely obstructed determined individuals. Also erecting and maintaining them can be extremely expensive.
Muslim registry harkens back to Nazi Germany. It seems inappropriate for a multiracial, democratic society that America is. Besides millions of Muslims are law-abiding residents of the United States.
Refugees vetting is already strict, prolonged and involves several U.S. agencies. Muslim refugees face additional vetting. Military leaders and national security experts consider the existing vetting to be “thorough and robust.”
It is noteworthy that immigration from Western Europe has never been opposed. But several U.S. laws were enacted between 1882 and 1924, to exclude immigrants from other parts of Europe and Asia. Also violence was used against them in Oregon and Washington six times between 1885 and 1925.
Unfortunately U.S. policies sometimes force foreigners to leave their homes. For example, in the past, campaigns against communism in South America forced some people there to seek shelter in the United States.
Also U.S.-led trade agreements and anti-drug drives have wrecked indigenous economies in Mexico and have turned barrios there into battlegrounds. Therefore many Mexicans have run to the United States.
Besides, conflicts in the Middle East and recent U.S.-led military campaigns there have made people to flee their homes. However, a large majority of the Middle Eastern refugees are living in camps in the neighboring countries. Only a small percentage of them have sought refuge in the United States.
Finally, regardless of their legal status, immigrants have made significant contribution to the life and growth of the United States, according to the Leadership Conference. Annually, they contribute $10 billion to the country’s economic growth. And the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine has determined that immigrant workers contributed almost $2 trillion, just in 2015-16.
And irrespective of circumstances which brought them here, immigrants deserve humane treatment, in the land of immigrants, which United States is.
Besides, according to many international covenants, all humans, including immigrants are entitled to basic rights and freedoms. Yet every year, hundreds of thousands of immigrants are detained by the U.S. government in administrative detention, where inhumane conditions prevail. Also excessive use of solitary confinement and incidence of sexual assault have been reported.
Dr. Pritam Rohila is a retired neuropsychologist. For more than 30 years, he has been working to promote peace and respect for diversity. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org