JESSE MECHANIC FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
During an interview with NPR on May 10, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly was asked if he supported a new Department of Homeland Security (DHS) policy that directs every person caught crossing the border illegally to be federally prosecuted. The change will result in far more children in detention centers, far more charges for asylum-seekers and thus, far more separated families.
The former DHS secretary said policies like this one are the "name of the game to a large degree."
Let me step back and tell you that the vast majority of the people that move illegally into United States are not bad people. They're not criminals. They're not MS-13. Some of them are not. But they're also not people that would easily assimilate into the United States into our modern society. They're overwhelmingly rural people in the countries they come from -- fourth, fifth, sixth grade educations are kind of the norm. They don't speak English, obviously that's a big thing. They don't speak English. They don't integrate well, they don't have skills. They're not bad people. They're coming here for a reason. And I sympathize with the reason. But the laws are the laws. But a big name of the game is deterrence.
Kelly, as many historians have pointed out, is repeating the same rhetoric that has been used over and over again to demonize immigrants since the mid-18th century. The narrative we have been fed is the story of the hardworking immigrant that settles in the "land of the free" to build a better life for his/her family. While this narrative is flawed, as it side-steps de jure and de facto race-based oppression for a more flowery story, there is some truth to it.
One thing is for certain: The immigrant story is not one that starts with wealth, prosperity and education.
It starts at the bottom.
Take the Kelly family, for example.
As The Washington Post noted, seven of Kelly's eight great grandparents were immigrants: four from Italy, three from Ireland. They were rail-workers, fruit-peddlers and wagon drivers. None of these positions fell under the category of "skilled." Researchers also found evidence that at least three of Kelly's great grandparents had yet to learn English decades after arriving in the country. And yet, despite their lack of "skills," they built a life and foundation here that enabled their great-grandson to become a Marine Corps general, the secretary of homeland security, and now the White House chief of staff.
Of course, his great grandparent's weren't Brown or Black; they weren't from any "shithole countries" which puts them firmly in the "good immigrants" category, it seems.
While our immigration policies have never lived up to the words in Emma Lazarus's poem "The New Colossus," they now stand in direct opposition to the entire sentiment.
Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!
Now it's decidedly more:
Give me your rich, your highly-skilled,
Your entrepreneurs yearning for capitalism.
Kelly's comments only got more callous from there. To round out the interview, he was asked if he thought it was "cruel and heartless" to take a mother away from her children:
I wouldn't put it quite that way. The children will be taken care of -- put into foster care or whatever. But the big point is they elected to come illegally into the United States and this is a technique that no one hopes will be used extensively or for very long."
"Put into foster care or whatever." Children will be ripped away from their paremts and caregivers and thrust into a horrid system that will undoubtedly change the entire trajectory of their lives. The "or whatever" part of this answer is where Kelly shows his true colors. He doesn't bother with the details because he doesn't care about the details.
These parentless immigrant children could've been his grandparents, if the man he works for was leading the country at the time.