Human Migration in the Age of Trump

We are nomadic, whether or not we choose to be. Over the course of human existence, all peoples have experienced migration--forced or chosen. From colonial displacement, to the slave trade, to increased resource scarcity, to feats of self-determination...humans move to survive.

Think about your ancestors—where did they come from? Were they forced out of their lands? Were they taken from their homes? Were they pushed out because of lack of resources? Religion? Politics? What made them leave the lands they knew and understood?

These questions haunt me as I think about the upcoming Trump administration. Based on a platform of fear and elitism, power and suppression, his administration will be steering the ship during the largest refugee crisis since WWII. Simultaneously, his administration will deny climate change while rising tides destroy cities, and oversee the nation while the human trafficking industry thrives.

Tomorrow marks the first day Donald J. Trump will be the leader of the “free world.” It is a harsh reality to face, but so it is.

As we stare this reality head on, I’m contemplating many unanswered questions. But this one sticks out the most: How will the leadership of this xenophobic, power-hungry man impact the lives of immigrants, refugees, and victims of human trafficking?

The quick answer: negatively.

Alas, answering with such simplicity is a disservice to the plight these people have already experienced and the hardships they will continue to endure. The future of U.S. and global migration will be shaped by a man who degrades people of color, the disabled, women, immigrants, journalists...and the list goes on.

To help us understand the gravity, let’s break down a few facets of human migration that will likely be impacted by the Trump presidency.

  1. Economic immigrants - These are individuals who pack their bags and head to the U.S. to pursue financial stability. As globalization continues to engulf far-reaching regions, people with varied skill levels are leaving their native lands to avoid economic-strife. Yes, many are leaving one challenging situation for another (read The Working Poor by David K. Shipler for perspective on how hard it is to be financially sound in the U.S., especially as an immigrant or person of color). Still, people believe their lives will improve if they take the leap to pursue the ever elusive “American Dream.” Whether these be physical laborers, or ivy-league elite, the xenophobic president’s plans to “build a wall” (and his rather obnoxious use of Twitter to announce policy) make the country increasingly inaccessible and unwelcoming to individuals seeking to contribute to our economy.
  1. Refugees - A refugee is a person who has been displaced from their home by war, persecution, or environmental disasters. No matter a person’s beliefs or background, to be forced from one’s home due to one (or all) of these reasons is devastating and has grave implications for the future of a person’s culture, language, and identity. (For example, I’m the descendant of refugees and I have zero connection to the lands they came from nor the language they spoke). Yes, there are refugees from every corner of the world who practice varying religions, but we are currently experiencing the largest refugee situation of people coming from primarily Muslim nations--Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, and much of Northern Africa. The refugee crisis is deeply bound to nations that have high Muslim populations. No matter what you wish, the truth is that the next president is calling for a Nazi-inspired ban AND registry of all Muslims and people hailing from Muslim-leaning nations.
  1. Human trafficking - It is estimated that there are 27 million adults and 13 million children around the world who are victims of human trafficking. The movement of people across the globe is a $32 billion dollar industry (yep, that’s annually). Human trafficking—based on using the human body for economic gain—is aligned on many levels with Trump’s values. The man is a taker who “grabs” what he thinks he deserves and uses what he can to gain money and power. It would be naive to assume that his administration will deploy any actions to combat this humanitarian crisis. In fact, more stringent border control, and increased discrimination will likely put victims at higher risk of abuse, both physically and financially.

We are a diverse nation defined by our connections to migration. We reside in a country that came into existence through displacement and stolen land, with a foundation built by slaves, and economically sustained with cheap immigrant labor. We are each connected to the immigrant, the displaced, and the stolen.

As the inauguration approaches, it is paramount that our awareness of these issues deepens and that we take action. Our democracy’s moral standings are not contingent on our leadership, but rather they are fueled by the people.

It is up to us—the descendants of immigrants, refugees, slaves, and the displaced. Together, we must rise up and be the foundation for our brothers and sisters. We are the pillars that must be devoted to their liberation.

Now it not the time to be dismayed, it is time to be woke.

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