It is touching and appropriate that we cry for children killed from gun violence. But somehow, there is a disproportionate level of attention given to refugee children. The conversation about these children is radically different, since children who are U.S. citizens are seen as innocent, whereas refugee children are seen as criminals.
This is about more than politics.
This discrepancy speaks to a greater problem that has conditioned people in the U.S. to see others from the Global South as expendable. Within the U.S., there exists different levels of prioritization of children, people, and families, leading to the question of how deep U.S. solidarity is outside a mentality of privileged American exceptionalism. The world can no longer afford these attitudes from the U.S. government, U.S. businesses, and U.S. citizens toward the innocent lives stolen and hijacked by their meddling and imperialism.
When we say Black Lives Matter, do we also mean Black people abroad, Black immigrants, or even Black ethnic minorities outside a dominant Black American culture? There is no doubt that immigration is a civil rights matter, with over 400,000 undocumented Black immigrants living in the U.S.
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Are people aware that Native and Indigenous people also exist outside U.S. borders? Indigenous rights are immigrant rights and vice versa. The current refugee crisis in Central America’s Northern Triangle has displaced and affected Indigenous people at higher rates than any other groups.
How come LGBTQ mainstream organizations have not put substantial resources behind the clear connection between LGBTQ rights and immigrant rights, knowing there are over 267,000 undocumented LGBTQ people living in the U.S.?
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Honestly, there are a lot of self-serving liberation initiatives that reinforce a trickle-down approach to equity.
A very old yet effective tactic of the oppressor is to pin communities against each other so we take our focus away from the real root causes of oppression. If we are looking to win the fight against structural oppression, we must have a conversation about the relative privilege that comes from living and operating within the U.S. Relatedly, the role citizenship plays in sidelining those most disproportionately affected by state-sanctioned violence and inequity is key in addressing an issue like gun violence.
We cannot speak about gun control when we are deporting immigrant children to places where the U.S. has and continues to fund terror. There is a refugee humanitarian crisis taking place. Barring people with legitimate claims to asylum, both under U.S. law and international law, only highlights the mixed messages, competing priorities, and hypocrisy from the U.S. government and civil society.
While conservatives stigmatize our existence as immigrants, it is the so-called liberals who deport us, using deceptive tactics that falsely position themselves as allies. But where are the voices of citizens and civil society groups outside immigrant rights organizations?
The current presidential administration mourns the lives of children who died due to gun violence, but there is little to no attention placed on the fact that the U.S. is the largest exporter of weapons.
Deep in this fight to regulate gun violence is an entrenched for-profit business that benefits from both the selling of guns in the U.S. and abroad. The U.S. government, businesses, and citizens are complicit in exacerbated gun violence abroad, which has directly contributed to larger waves of migration and the current humanitarian refugee crisis.
From the police who are inadequately and fatally using guns to kill as opposed to restrain, to the manufacturers of guns themselves, to the unregulated sale of guns to countries abroad, the U.S. government must recognized that violence in other places is a push factor of migration. And the lives of all children and people are important, as they are all affected by the same guns made in the U.S. How can this conversation take place while the same people pushing this initiative are behind the mass deportation of refugee children and families?
There are over 11.2 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. We are also being affected and killed by U.S.-manufactured guns used both by state representatives and civilians. With a growing record of over 2.5 million deportations, the Obama Administration accounts for the largest number of deported people in the history of the U.S., all presidents combined.
The difference between immigrants and everyone else is that we are starting 2016 under extreme and inhumane persecution and raids from ICE with little to no public outcry from non-immigration advocacy groups. Let’s all come together as a community across social justice movements to pressure the government, liberals and conservatives, to immediately stop the detention and deportation of refugees in this country. A conversation about gun control has to involve all groups and fill in the gaps of an inconsistent logic to eradicate gun violence.
Real change is contingent upon a unified front and the commitment from all people showing up for one another.
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[Feature Image: A toddler with short dark brown hair and tan skin complexion is looking up as their attention is towards someone above. The child is wearing a light blur blouse with white lace around the neckline and hair is accessorized with a green barrette and dark pink flower.]