Recently, immigrants to the United States experienced an American immigration policy which has been justifiably criticized all over the world. Children were separated from the immigrating parents by American customs and incarcerated away from them. The American supreme court rejected the policy and ordered the Trump administration to rectify the situation within a very short period of time. Eva expresses her views regarding this American immigration policy.
The recent revelation of a hastily put-together policy in the U.S to deter migrants from crossing the border illegally between Mexico and the US ignited a huge controversy domestically as well as internationally. The outrage focused on the separation of children from their families, who were then bussed miles and miles away. The heart-wrenching images of young children crying, wailing for their parents, locked in wire “boxes” (for I despise the use of the word “cages”) and aimlessly wandering to locate their parents, really hit home for me illustrating the ugly side of America. It is the Trump administration that is advocating “tough measures” at the border. It is the officers of all stripes who carry out these orders, who have to uphold the law with stiff spines, unsmiling faces, mean demeanour and negligent temperament even when facing little children.
This scene transported me back to another time 61 years ago when my family of 4 was a part of a large influx of refugees from Hungary and were accepted into Austria. Just as it is with immigrants and refugees today, the “American Dream” was the end all, be all. Everyone in the refugee camp was chasing it. And just as it is today, immigrants and refugees want a safe place to raise their families and to work hard to provide a better future for their children.
One day, two American immigration officers arrived in camp to recruit skilled workers and labourers, and they reminded us through an interpreter that they have to follow a quota. After our family’s very lengthy interview through an interpreter was over, all of a sudden, my mom and younger sister were lead away, and we were told that my dad and I can proceed to America, but they can’t because my mother’s secretarial skills were not needed. We were bewildered. I cried, I sobbed and I ran after my sister and mom but all the frantic looking was in vain. They were nowhere to be found. I pleaded with two officers anyway I could but the cold, expressionless eyes staring back at me needed no language. I got it! We were not going to the US as a family. At that time the indifference and the ruthlessness of the officers were disguised in underlying subtle tones. All this happening on Austrian soil, no less. My father was verbally threatened if he did not take the offer. He was berated for rejecting it and was reminded just how ungrateful he was. As refugees, we had very little standing in the community. He may now be blacklisted and may never be allowed to enter America even as a visitor. My dad heard enough of these threats. He took my 9-year-old self by the hand and we forcefully exited the holding area!
After 61 years, my mom, my dad and my sister have all gone to their resting places, but the feelings of desperation, helplessness and profound sadness from that time still linger in some deep recesses of my mind. Images I see today awaken those dimmed memories. To this day I feel some intimidation when we arrive at the US/Canada border and I hand over my passport just in case the officer sees something I don’t.
I feel tremendous empathy and compassion for those separated families and for those helpless children because, in the land of the brave and the free, there has got to be another way.
I am truly grateful that I call Canada my home.