Welcome to the United States of America! Home of the free, because of the brave.
Now that you’ve walked thousands of miles with no shoes and a toddler, fleeing violence and poverty, risking rape and murder along the journey, we’d like to inform you of the asylum process.
Take a number. Yours is 11,453 and we just called 173. We call approximately three people per day, so you’ll be living the American dream in no time; or, alternatively, never.
You must wait in Mexico until your number is called. No worries though, most migrants sleep huddled together for protection on the concrete. It’s like an impromptu summer camp but with less canoeing and more human trafficking.
Your toddler has a horrible cough and a 103-degree fever? You should’ve thought of that before you left El Salvador. You might check around the migrant camp, there’s probably a doctor in there fleeing something.
Congratulations! You waited for months, fought disease and criminals looking to exploit the vulnerable, and went through all the hoops to finally reach a border agent and apply for asylum in the mighty US of A. When you meet with the ICE agent, be sure to smile.
If you’re lucky and the ICE agent (who may or may not have had his coffee yet) decides your case has merit, you’ll be separated from your toddler and sent to a detention center, or the “icebox.” It sounds totally insane and cruel to separate parents from their children, but it makes sense. Your toddler will be much more comfortable alone, in a special cage designed for her tiny toddler dimensions. Plus, you’ll have the added benefit of getting a break from parenting for a few days to months. It will give you time to think about your dreams for your new American life and fend off sexual predators. I hope you packed life-sustaining snacks and brought fuzzy socks because ICE likes to keep things super “chill” in there.
Now hang on to your shorts (literally) because this is when it gets exciting. After your hearing, you’ll either be sent back to Mexico or sent back to the icebox. There is really no rhyme or reason, and you could be sent back and forth with no explanation, for weeks or months. You might think you’ve been deported when in fact you’ve been given a court date that’s three months away. In America, we like to say, “when the going gets tough, the tough get going.” But don’t actually go anywhere, because you’ll lose your spot.
You can always seek the counsel of an attorney. The US government has generously provided a list of attorneys who can help you navigate the constantly changing system. Unfortunately, they’re all in San Diego and you can’t go there; but beggars can’t exactly be choosers.
You probably don’t know where your toddler is at this point and could be very worried. But fear not, she is probably working through that bacterial infection with the help of a 9-year-old who has taken her under her wing.
Your court date has finally arrived! If you’re still alive and managed to hold on to the essential documents needed to apply for asylum after being moved between Mexico and the US multiple times, all while freezing, eating very little food (bring on that bikini body!), and sleeping while standing up, then you will have your case reviewed. Cross your fingers you get a compassionate judge because depending on whether the judge is constipated or would rather be fishing, you have between a 3% and 90% chance of approval.
Addendum as of July 16th, 2019: To keep it extra interesting we decided to change things up a bit around here. If you passed through another country or countries before arriving at the US border, you’ll need to go back to the first one and apply for refugee status before returning to seek asylum. Do not pass go; do not collect $200.
I know you’re probably disappointed because you walked thousands of miles, survived torturous conditions for months, and no one can locate your toddler.
That’s the price of freedom, baby!
My great-great+ grandparents on my dad’s side – John and Elizabeth (Hughling) Adams, immigrated to what is now New Jersey in 1695 from Antrim, Ireland. I imagine they were fleeing something pretty bad – religious persecution, poverty, famine, maybe all of those – to leave their homeland and take a long-ass, disease-ridden, and rat-infested boat ride across the Atlantic to build a life in the wilderness with a bunch of Dutch people.
Whether your parents fled Cambodia in the 70s, you arrived on a tech visa during the dot-com boom, your grandpa came through Ellis Island to open a laundromat in Manhattan, or in my case, Pop-Pop and MawMaw Adams decided they’d had enough of the bloody English and thought a cruise sounded nice, many Americans are beneficiaries of relatively open American immigration policies at best, or at worst, are descendants of colonists who squatted and then stole the land.
There are Native Americans in the US, but due to murder, displacement, and disease the population of Americans who identify as Native hovers around 0.9%. African Americans who are descendants of slaves also did not immigrate; their ancestors were kidnapped and brought to the US against their will.
We are a diverse bunch, and it’s complicated.
What is happening at the US/Mexico border – detaining asylum seekers in squalid conditions for extended periods of time, separating children from their parents, and sending people back to their home countries before reviewing their cases – is inhumane, illegal, and distinctly un-American.
How You Can Help
Separate fact from fiction. Before sharing articles or memes on social media or arguing about the border crisis at your neighborhood block party, check your facts. It’s important that all sides share valid information; this keeps the conversation on the actual, legitimate issues and makes the sharer look less dumb.
- Check the source. MyAmericanFlagIsBiggerThanYours.net and TrumpIsAGiantOrangeTurd.biz might not be reputable sources, for example.
- Fact check with the pros. FactCheck.org, Politifact.com, and Snopes.com are all unbiased sources for fact-checking articles such as, “Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Is Actually a North Korean Spy and Meth Head Who Eats Tuna That Was Caught in a Net with a Bunch of Baby Dolphins.”
- Make sure it’s not satire before you share it earnestly. What I wrote above is not an official document distributed by the Department of Homeland Security.
Donate. Money talks and disposable income used for good is an American superpower. Here are three vetted organizations working on the front-lines:
Al Otro Border Rights Project – provides a diverse range of legal aid services to immigrants, refugees, and deportees in Tijuana, including the reunification of parents and children in Mexico. They coordinate with attorneys and non-legal professionals to assist with immigration, family, employment, and criminal law issues.
Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project – provides free legal services to men, women, and unaccompanied children in immigration custody in Arizona. I got to know Charlene D’Cruz, who founded this organization, while delivering supplies to the caravan last fall. She is an attorney, university professor, and all-around A+ human being who has devoted her life to serving vulnerable populations.
RAICES – provides free or low-cost legal aid to immigrant children, families, and refugees in the central and south Texas area and funds bond payments, emergency assistance, temporary housing, safety planning, access to mental health services and medical care, and access to basic travel needs.