I haven’t finished Immigration Nation yet. I’ve only watched one episode, but I am livid. Seeing ICE up close drives home the point of how pointless this agency is. It’s hard for me to accurately quantify the fury I feel as I write this article, but through episode one, I found myself ping-ponging between yelling at the TV and crushing apathy. It felt like I was nurturing a deep pit in my stomach that I wished over and over again that it would go away but yet it still lingered and lingered. I remarked to my partner after watching the episode that people, myself included, often have this question surrounding the history of slavery, asking how in the world could people be devoid of such empathy for their fellow man? How is that possible?
I found myself asking that same question after the episode. The cruel catch is that this machine, this willful cause of immense suffering, this dearth of empathy four our fellow men and women is happening now, today. This ongoing. The docuseries starts off only two years ago, in the midst of the family separation crisis, and it was only a few weeks ago that we found out ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement), amidst the raging pandemic, is storing kids all by themselves in hotels across the country. Reports have come in that they are supposedly making Muslim detainees choose between eating pork or rotten food, and COVID-19 is ravaging their prisons with little being done about it. It’s mind-boggling, depressing, and infuriating all wrapped into one.
The sad truth is that we’ll all go numb to it though eventually. We always do. Remarkably, even the dropping of this documentary on Netflix, an event that would have been front page in any other years except this one, arrived with little press. I heard a bit about it a few months ago and then nothing. Immigration Nation appeared on Netflix with little fan fare.
The first question on my mind going in was what do the people working at ICE think about their jobs. Let me tell you it’s not great. Some at the gall to wonder why they weren’t treated with more respect. Some laughed. Some claimed they were just following orders.
One line though in particular was the refrain heard from ICE workers highlighted in the docuseries: it’s the law and we are just here to enforce it. It’s hard to know exactly how to attack that line of reasoning, because technically it’s true. There was a policy during the Obama years to only focus on immigrants with serious offenses, but that was quickly changed during Trump’s ascendancy. He opened the floodgates allowing ICE to target anyone who had crossed illegally, no matter how upstanding a member of their community they were.
It’s the line pushed by Republicans at every turn, a group that repeatedly seems unable to expend even the tiniest of amount of energy to fully realize their potential as lawmakers themselves and at least make the process more humane. That seems like a given, but then again, Republicans are not known for their courage or spines or even empathy.
If I had my way, I would dismantle the entire immigration system as we know it. Let humanity come and go as it pleases. To me, abolishing ICE is just a moderate first step along that path. People may raise their hands in protest and loudly and obnoxiously object, but yet here we are at a flash point. The simple fact is that we are allowing a system to be the cause of immense human suffering for little to no reason. We’re breaking up families daily, sending men and women and children to their death, turning children into orphans, and failing a whole generation of brothers and sisters with a toothless Constitution that fails spectacularly at protecting the most vulnerable. And all of this we allow, because what? That’s how we’ve always done it? It’s the law?
History is littered with countless examples of legalized pain and suffering and mistreatment. Just because something is the law doesn’t make it right and just because something is illegal doesn’t make it wrong. I’ve dealt with the immigration system several times in my life and at every single step of the way, the system is designed to make you feel in the wrong. It makes you feel like you are a criminal and only if you can jump through these countless hoops, then maybe, if you’re lucky, we’ll consider your humanity.
I’m here to say fuck it. Fuck the whole system. All it does is create a tiered society and legalizes suffering and pain.
And I’d say the worst part of all of it has to be the hypocrisy. For a country that has long touted itself as the shining city on a hill, we have gone dark. The mask has been ripped away to reveal only a pale cruel petty little man who gets off on telling people that don’t look like him that they are sub-human. So again, I say abolish ICE. It’s a terrorist institution, and once it’s gone, let’s get to work on tearing down the rest of the broken system.