Immigrants & Memorial Day

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(Funeral of Lance Cpl. Jose Gutierrez)
Today is Memorial Day, so we’re going to start with the picture of a funeral of a soldier that died in service to America in 2003. A hero. An immigrant soldier. A soldier that came to this country illegally.

On January 25, 2017, Trump scrawled his name on an executive order “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States”.
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With that one chaotic signature, he began a process that deliberately criminalizes peaceful members of our communities, disrupts our businesses and separates children from their parents.

Trump, himself an abuser of immigrants, began the order with “Many aliens who illegally enter the United States and those who overstay or otherwise violate the terms of their visas present a significant threat to national security and public safety.” This assertion contradicts factual data from many reputable sources (here, here and here) and essentially calls out millions of our neighbors as possible terrorists.

He then proceeds to strip all common sense and discretion from law enforcement officers.

“…We cannot faithfully execute the immigration laws of the United States if we exempt classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement.”  

Suddenly, the hardworking population that picks and cooks our food, cleans our homes, cares for our children, and provides the hard physical labor native-born US citizens are reluctant to perform, is deemed indistinguishable from violent felons.

The racist and xenophobic GOP narrative of criminal-immigrants has flooded our newsfeeds. Their carefully curated vocabulary of criminality (“illegals, illegal aliens, illegal immigrants, undocumented aliens, amnesty) is no accident. They’re deliberately warping our perception of immigrants until we no longer protest the human rights violations and cruelty that are the hallmarks of their campaign.

The truth is that these people are as much economic refugees as the immigrants in our own family stories we’re so anxious to connect with on The criminalization narrative also deliberately ignores the US policies that created the hardship in their homelands that forced them to leave. (Here and here)

Daily, we read stories that fall unheeded onto our blunted consciousness of human decency.

–  These Republicans Want to Put Ankle Monitors on the Sponsors of Undocumented Children
–  Women Are Now Living With the Fear of Deportation If They Report Domestic Violence.
–  Immigration Detention: Worse Than Death?    “I would rather die than spend one more day in detention.”
–  “No Place Is Safe”: This Is What Happens to Kids When an Undocumented Parent Is Detained

–  Mother Locked In Family Detention Attempts Suicide To Free Her Kids.  A federal ruling says they should’ve been freed months ago. “Family Detention” centers, where both mothers and children are imprisoned together, are expected to expand from 3500 beds to 20,000.

But today is Memorial day, and let’s take this opportunity to take this narrative back from those who terrorize and slander our nation’s loyal and patriotic economic refugees.

Immigrants have served the US military from the beginning of our country. Irish and German immigrants comprised 18% of the Union Army during the Civil War. During WWI, over 190,000 earned citizenship through military service. The tradition of immigrants fighting and dying in service to our country continues today. Combined, veterans who are immigrants or children of immigrants account for 12 percent of the total veteran population.

“Many foreign-born residents carry a desire to serve, migrating from countries with rich histories of military tradition. In Mexico, for example, the army functions not only as a defense against external attacks but also as an indispensible aid to public works programs. Many who choose to immigrate and seek citizenship hope to continue in this tradition of military service and reflect their patriotism inherent in their commitment to a new home…More than one in five of the immigrants who lost their lives between September 11 and the end of 2013 were originally from Mexico, making it the most common country of origin for fallen, foreign-born service members…”

One of the first service members to die in Iraq was Lance Cpl. Gutierrez, an immigrant from Guatemala who came to the US illegally. He was killed In a tank battle In Iraq in March 2003.  According to CBS News, “The heroism and sacrifice of non-citizens was barely known — until Lance Cpl. Jose Gutierrez died in battle in Iraq.  He was granted citizenship posthumously.


So let’s change the conversation. Refuse to accept the GOP’s racist criminalization. Let’s create a framework of language that supports and encourages our economic refugee population in their most American of journeys. Demonizing them while needing what they contribute to our society is wrong. And on this day, Memorial Day, doing that while honoring their members for their heroism, patriotism and sacrifice is unthinkable.

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