The Politics of Humanity: "A Hidden System"

by Amaury Nora

It has been nearly seven years since the tragic events of 9/11, yet, the southern border continues to be used as a scapegoat in our ongoing “war on terror.” Security has become synonymous with stopping undocumented immigration, and unfortunately, this country’s immigration policies have resulted in very real negative consequences.

In the wake of the ever-expanding enforcement operations conduced by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), a “hidden system” has been created where there is no concern to the fate of those detained. They simply have become the sacrificial victims of a broken immigration system.

In the closing line of the song “Mojado,” Ricardo Arjona featuring Intocable asks a question of immense relevance to those whoshut their eyes to the recent surge in immigration raids around the country and the increase in militarization projects at the border: “¿Si la visa universal se extiende el día en que nacemos y caduca en la muerte, Por qué te persiguen, mojado, si el consul de los cielos ya te dio permiso?” (“If the universal visa begins when we are born and expires at our death, why do they persecute you, Mojado, if the consul of the heavens has already given you permission?”) Note: The images in the video are quite vivid and stir up a lot of emotions. Ricardo Arjona – Mojado

While it is important to criticize the consequences of the immigration raids, the hard question we should start asking ourselves, “What drives a person from one society to hate another person from another society to the degree that they want to segregate them, even demoralize them?”

Exposing the massive violations that took place in Postville, Iowa, this past May, Marisa Trevino of Latina Lista, writes:

The secretive and isolationist nature of how the federal government conducts deportations and immigrant detentions naturally lends itself to abuse of the system and the erosion of human rights.

It is difficult for the average American to believe all of this happening within our borders because many of us would like to believe we are courageous enough to resist unjust authority and would never abandon our core beliefs in the face of social pressures. However, the reality is, we can never predict our actions without being placed in similar situations.

Perhaps no one understands the roots of cruelty better than Philip Zimbardo. He is known for conducting the famous Stanford Prison Experiment, which demonstrated how, under the right circumstances, ordinary people could quickly become amoral monsters. In his latest book, The Lucifer Effect, Zimbardo describes his recent prison experiment that documented the quick transformation of a group of ordinary young men into power-hungry “guards,” humiliating equally ordinary “prisoners” in the basement of Stanford’s psychology building.

The recipe for behavior change is not complicated. Dehumanization is the central process that changes a normal person into someone indifferent. The process clouds the mind of ones thinking and fosters the perception that “other people” are less than human. Powerful enough to even drive some people to see the “others” as enemies, deserving of torment and torture. It is through this process that provides the justification for xenophobia and the conversion of these “illegal” residents into criminals in the popular consciousness.

I had the opportunity to meet with the families who were affected by immigration raids in Houston. I have written many posts on how these raids have destroyed many families. While I have expressed my concerns, however, I was also grateful their problems were not mine. When I was in graduate school, I was taught it was better to separate yourself from the other person’s pain because it would protect you from feeling overwhelmed and helpless.

However, I have come to realize this only perpetuates a fear that if the situation were to happen to me personally, I would not be able to bear it. It was easier to keep an emotional safe distance, so I could avoid the truth of their experience. While it is natural to feel sympathy when someone is hurting, however, this only limits the amount of meaningful support.

During the meeting, I failed to find the right words to comfort them. It was not until I let go my professional detachment that I could not stop the sadness that quickly engulfed me. To hear the stories on how ICE treated them was truly heart breaking, but not surprising. The underlying story can be found throughout the country. The New York Times, the Washington Post and CBS News have all provided alarming evidence of shoddy care, inadequate staffing, lax standards, secrecy and chronic ineptitude. Because Congress has failed to act on reform, more than 40 states have been busy trying to crack down on undocumented immigrants, whether they are parents or minors.

As I left the meeting, I could not help but break down because there are animals who are treated more humanely. How anyone could not shed a tear after hearing their traumatic stories is beyond me.

– they were not allowed to close the door whenever someone needed to use the restroom
– sexual harassment. women being touched in private areas in from of the men
– guards exerted psychological pressure with verbal threats and physical intimidation to force them to sign the voluntary deportation order, if they refused, they were told deportations proceedings could take over a year, which would mean they are not allowed to work.
– no water was granted to them. One said when they asked for water, ICE dumped the water on the floor, saying “There is no water for you.”
– one woman fainted because she was thirsty and still no water was given to them
– before they were interviewed, they remained in a hot van with no running a/c for over an hour forced to share among 10-13 detainees one bottle water.
– when given something to drink, it was one of those frozen concentrated drink that was still unthawed.

Although the politics of immigration policy play out regularly in the media, issues around family separations and the actual conditions and violations of rights receive little attention. The construction of modern day human zoos, such as the T. Don Hutto Residential Center in Taylor, TX or the Willacy County Detention Center in Raymondville, TX or the numerous deportation prisons throughout this country, one must come to the realization that this is a representation of the collapse of a system that is not capable of making good on its promises of liberty, justice and democracy.

Attending the meeting has opened my eye and led me to view this humanitarian crises differently. I have come to realize that the best gift I can give to the thousands who have been victimized by our broken immigration system is my willingness to share their experience of the “hidden system” to others.

Originally posted on The Sanctuary

2 replies »

  1. Powerful…

    And all too reminiscent of the human behavior exhibited under regimes like those of Nazi Germany and Stalin’s USSR.

    I’m tired of hearing about how great and strong and courageous America is. I want to see it. And until i do, i’m forced to accept that our greatness is mythological. (with the understanding that myths are generally based on some sort of truth, though the truth is old enough to be mostly forgotten)

    Would Americans say “no” if it were Americans being treated this way?