The Case For Open Borders: No Children In Cages

Statue at the Hyderabad University Arts Campus

My heart hurts as I put my little brown babies to sleep. I know that other brown babies are screaming for their mothers, sick, dirty and unfed; caged and lying on concrete floors. This is the point. The cruelty is the point.

Donald Trump isn’t embarrased that the world knows that America is abusing children. He wants us to know. This empathy, this pain in my mind, this is his wall. He is building a wall in our minds.

Donald Trump couldn’t build a physical wall, so he’s building a metaphorical wall of hate, with brown babies on the pikes. He wants the desperate and poor to know that there is no refuge in America. That America is worse than El Salvador or wherever they’re fleeing from. Because America will steal your children.

Donald Trump said he would build a wall, and this is the wall. It is made of the bodies of the poor and desperate, mortared with the tears of children, ringed by bureaucracy and paid for with the moral credit of the United States.

The cruelty and suffering is not a flaw in the system that the media has discovered. It is a feature that they are advertising.

Donald Trump wants brown people to know that there is no refuge in America, so he is playing on the deepest fear of every parent and child. If you have children — or if you’ve seen any Disney movie from Bambi to Lion King — you know this fear. For a parent it is greater even than the fear of death. Our greatest fear is that we would lose a child. That they would be suffering and we would be unable to help. This is torture. I would rather be phyically tortured than to have my children taken away and abused.

This is the torture that Donald Trump, with the help of the Republican Party and mandate of the American people, has visited upon thousands of human beings. This is the torture that is being communicated to the world.

What the world sees is this:

The United States has a dedicated bureaucracy devoted to capturing, caging and torturing children. America’s Congress pays companies to throw them in cages, charging as much as it would cost to send them to Disneyland. The American people voted for this and do not stop or even acknowledge the concentration camps on their soil.

Like terrorism, it’s not the proximate violence that’s the point. It’s the communication. Also like terrorism, the message is hatred.

The message is clear. America is for white people. Brown people are animals, there at the white people’s indulgence. Animals get captured, put in cages, taken from their parents. Sometimes they get sick and die. Who cares.

This is not some flaw in the system. Immigration policies are by definition racist, and have been from the beginning. In America immigration policy emerged to explicitly keep out the Chinese, the disabled, the sick, the communist, the poor, Mexicans, etc. There were quotas for desirable and undesirable countries, and enforcement was and is focused on certain types of people and not others. Immigration policy is institutionalized racism and classism. It is by definition discrimination and evolved explicitly as such.

The UN is trying to gradually move towards more just migration policies — with a compact that everyone but the US and Hungary signed — but the very idea is fundamentally unfair. We are all descended from ‘undocumented’ migrants at some point and this modern system needs to be questioned and torn down.

Donald Trump didn’t create this system. He merely throws its cruelty in sharp relief. He cages children in real life, but is caging them within hostile borders any less cruel? He asks them to apply like ‘everybody else’, but applications aren’t available to everyone. The whole system is unfair and all the ‘laws’ and ‘rules’ are just window dressing on a structurally violent system that monkeys would be familiar with. Restricting where people can move is inhuman and we need to move beyond it.

The Universal Declaration Of Human Rights acknowledges that people have the right to freedom of movement and residence, but it limits that to within the borders of each state. So our ‘universal’ rights are then restricted by an earthly state, and God knows what terrible state you could be born into. The escape clause is the right to claim asylum. What Donald Trump has shown is that there is no escape.

The families that he is separating are exercising their right to apply for asylum. The US violates international law by throwing them in concentration camps and separating parents from children, but this law obviously doesn’t matter. It shows the injustice of the whole system, that the universal right to movement is fundamentally denied by our system of borders and that asylum is not an adequate escape. Freedom of movement should, morally (and economically), mean freedom for everyone. Our human rights have to expand.

Open borders, is of course a longer conversation. A generational challenge to see beyond the injustices of racism to seeing the injustice of nationalism. But it’s a conversation we need to have.

Because it’s not just that Donald Trump has built a wall of hatred on the backs of the poor and the desperate, it is that the whole system rests on a foundation of injustice. It is not just that babies are tortured and abused, it’s that our world judges babies by their circumstances of their birth. We tell them how big their cage is, and we limit their abilities to get out by race and class. Donald Trump does that explicitly, in all its ugliness and horror. But we live in a system of closed borders that does implicit same.

Both of these abuses of our shared humanity need to stop. Donald Trump’s wall needs to be torn down now, but we have to tear down our restrictive system of borders as well.

Every child deserves a chance. No one should be judged by the circumstances of their birth. No child should be caged — physically, metaphorically or bureaucratically. The idea of open borders seems crazy for its time, but this is its time. We have to tear down these walls, starting with the ones erected in our minds.

Further Reading — The Case For Open Borders: Birth