I was brought to tears this morning listening to the tragic story of Carlos Aguirre-Venegas, who died at age 30 while in a U.S. prison for non-citizens. He left behind a wife and three young children who live where I grew up in West Texas. Carlos had been deported multiple times in his unrelenting quest to be in America to make a better life for himself and his family.
This wonderfully reported and produced podcast hosted by Kai Wright is called The United States of Anxiety. Listening to this episode gave me a better understanding of how the process of criminalizing our border came about, how its application has transitioned through presidents on both sides of the aisle, and how it is operating today.
With Carlos’ story as a prime example, no matter how “tough” we are at the border and in our immigrant prisons, it is often not a deterrent when compared to the conditions people are escaping from. People will continue to come to this country, filled with hope for a better life, until their situation at home changes. If I put myself in their shoes, there is absolutely nothing I wouldn’t do for the safety and well-being of my family. We must have a rational and just immigration and foreign policy that both honors the sovereignty of nations and infinite value and sanctity of every human life, no matter what side of a political boundary they happen to be born in. If you have any interest in a deeper understanding of immigration, I would highly recommend this episode.
“What sticks with me is that this policy of prosecuting and locking people up for crossing the border, it was part of Jim Crow. Anti-Mexican ideas and anti-black ideas, they were of a piece, something that functioned together to keep white people in power over the United States government, its economy and its social structures. And I cannot miss the fact that in both cases, for Mexican immigrants and black people alike, criminal justice was and remains a crucial tool in that work. When we call somebody a criminal, we can do lots of terrible things to them.”
– The United States of Anxiety host Kai Wright
If you want to take a deeper dive into Seth Freed Wessler’s reporting, visit The Nation.