The treatment of refugees and other migrants trying to enter supposedly civilized countries has reached new lows recently with more deaths worldwide, including at Spain’s Ceuta border with Morocco, in the Mediterranean between Europe and Africa, in the English Channel between France and the UK, between Belarus and Poland, and at the US southern border.
This may be a consequence of rising nationalism or one of the aftereffects of the COVID-19 pandemic, during which the closing of borders and scapegoating of entire nationalities somehow became acceptable. Whatever the reason, we should denounce xenophobia and support the provision of a haven for migrants who have risked everything in search of a better life.
Language learning is never more apparent than when people are on the move. Migrants and travelers know that adopting the language of their destination is key to successful interactions, be they commercial or social, and we know how keenly they apply themselves to that study so that they can succeed in their new homes.
Just as the COVID-era Title 42 “public health” restriction on migration was coming to an end, the Biden administration has given in to fear mongering and resurrected the policy to restrict at-risk people from Cuba, Nicaragua, Haiti, and Venezuela from entering the US, while offering others with more resources a new route into the country.
Under the new plan, migrants from the listed countries can pass background checks, buy plane tickets, and secure financial sponsorship to legally enter the US under a “parole program,” which grants work visas for two years.
However, migrants without such resources would be ineligible if they failed to seek protection in a third country before reaching the US—yet these are the people in the most need of asylum, many of whom are Indigenous Americans whose ancestors predated our borders by millennia.
Biden’s decision to continue and even expand Title 42 restrictions runs contrary to the president’s campaign promises and further persecutes disadvantaged and Indigenous American migrants. The administration’s new proposals even include allowing asylum seekers to use an app in English and Spanish to schedule appointments, making the legal process even harder for migrants who lack technological access and speak Indigenous languages, as well as for those who cannot obtain legal representation to help them navigate the process.
It’s time to admit that COVID presented itself as a convenient excuse for anti-immigrant factions to justify border closures and impose inhumane rules on millions of fellow human beings looking for safety, for opportunity to contribute to the overall well-being of their new neighbors, or just to scrape their way out of poverty.