Ukrainians have been arriving at the Mexican border; and, after some hesitation by the federal government, they are being allowed to cross. Headlines in Texas media have been consistently favorable.
“Texas organizations gearing up to welcome thousands of Ukrainian refugees,”
“North Texans Prepare to Welcome Ukrainian Refugees,”
More national stories explain that “their need is great.” And, all of these stories share the word “welcome.”
Images of the faces of Ukrainians arriving at the border capture the tension of the fugitive. Like refugees of all time, their bright faces can’t hide the horrors left behind, nor fears of the unknown to come. Children clutch their mothers, Mothers would clutch their husbands but they can’t, the men remain in Ukraine to face their fates. Regardless of the welcome, their ordeal will continue.
Two weeks later, other headlines compete for attention, “Ex-Trump officials urge Texas to declare border ‘invasion’,”
“Texas governor orders increased patrolling at border, taunts Biden administration’s lack of action,” 6 April 2022,
The Governor is talking about Mexicans, because Mexicans “invading” Texas is a recurring story as old as the State itself. Still, I scratch my head trying to understand why the obvious exaggeration of invasion continues to trigger so many Texans.
Then, I scan the images of the brown people arriving at the border. Their faces also reflect horrors left behind, and fears of the unknown to come. A mother breaks down and cries when she is turned away and sent to a squalid camp on the Mexican side of the border to lose hope and encounter her fate. It’s a camp the United States does not want on its side of the fence because there’s a long and ugly history of people—Japanese, Indians, African-Americans, Filipinos, Mexicans—forced into camps by the U.S. government. Not only is the horror of her fate obvious, but so is the irony. She has brown skin; and, therefore, is not welcome, although her need is great.
In the meantime, children taken from their parents during the Trump years remain separated. The media has dropped the story, even though It appears that many of these migrant children have still to be reunited. Their need is great.
But, there’s an even bigger irony here. We live in a nation that is demographically in decline. With the exception of Latinos, and some Asian groups, birthrates have fallen below population maintenance, and will continue to do so for most, if not all, of the century. As a result, the nation must encourage immigration to fill labor force needs, support pay-forward programs like social security, find personnel to staff the military, police forces, EMTs, and institutions of education.
And, sometimes, the incredulousness of the irony makes me laugh, Republican primary candidates are claiming that undocumented immigrants come here to vote illegally and steal elections. I’m speechless. Without immigration the nation faces a diminished future.
It’s easy to say that the immigration system is broken, broken inside the Republican Party and inside the Democratic Party. But, something that should be broken is not. That is the persistent resentment and disdain that many Americans feel for people with brown skin who flee from places deemed inferior.
Still, I’m hopeful for the 21st century because Millennials and Gen Zers continue to procreate across skin color lines. I won’t be here to see it, but I believe that we will reconcile our national rejection of brown-skinned people when Whites hug brown grandchildren, nephews, and nieces.