Illegal aliens landed on Plymouth Rock 400 years ago and renamed an inhabited land the United States of America.
Public Service Announcement: "Department of Homeland Security hiring border patrol agents, help keep 10,000 illegal aliens out of our country per week." Hastily turning off my radio, I tune into my conscience, no longer able to silence a message I have been receiving for quite some time: I find the term, the label, the moniker, "illegal aliens," in reference to the existence of another human being morally reprehensible and viscerally alarming. What is an illegal? What is an alien?
As Maya Angelou often speaks, "nothing human is alien to me."
If you want to see an alien, you don't need to travel to Roswell looking for spaceships or the Texas border. Open your history book: Christopher Columbus was an illegal alien. Walk into your bathroom and look in the mirror: your reflection, a piece of not-so-distant history, your grandmother whom walked by foot or boarded a boat or a bus or a plane less than 400 years ago, stares back at you.
When one considers that Earth is an estimated 4.54 billion years-old, the United States' history appears miniscule. The United States once prided itself on being a nation of young immigrants. Now, our nation passes and implements increasingly oppressive and dehumanizing immigration laws and refers with ease to human beings as, "illegal aliens." How is any person on God's green Earth illegal? Don't be a slave to arcane concepts shackled in time, cross the border limiting your mind: A Californian is a Mexican 163 years removed in time.
Our political leaders fought to end apartheid in South Africa, yet our nation among so many "First World" nations have instituted an international world order based on social class with racial overtones denying free movement of people. Apartheid is illegal unless one enters into discourse on international immigration law that govern the transnational movement of people. The relative wealth or poverty of a person's nation of origin to a greater or lesser extent governs his or her right to experience the world and move freely throughout it. Naturally when we label ourselves as a "First World," the connotation necessitates the creation of "Second Worlds" and "Third Worlds" to give clarity to our self-proclaimed superiority. As democracy often functions as a façade to placate the masses, so too does a notion of freedom in a supposed antiapartheid world that strategically limits the mobility of the fiscally undesirable. Who are we to criticize Cuba's barbaric practice of not allowing its own citizens into the desirable tourist zones, while simultaneously creating a hierarchal world order? For example for a Jamaican citizen to travel to the United States he or she must pay a substantial sum to commence the visa application process, and our nation labels Jamaica a "developing" country. Yet the United States has established a visa waiver program for qualifying citizens of the following nations: United Kingdom, Australia, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Monaco, the Netherlands, Spain and Sweden, all "First World" countries. Although the United States may occasionally institute temporary immigration laws to support human rights issues, our system by and large oppresses people from economically challenged nations.
I learned a harsh lesson in law school when a close friend and I planned a trip to France, Spain and Morocco to celebrate his law school graduation. As he studied for the bar exam, I booked our flights and rooms, no small sum for two broke law students. $6,000.00 U.S. later, I learned that his Jamaican citizenship limited his ability to travel throughout the world much more than my U.S. citizenship. As I sat reading the visa requirements and restrictions that he faced to travel internationally, I thought about the 16-hour days we spent cramped up in a small study room on Florida State's campus studying International Comparative Law. Page by page we conquered the legal systems of foreign nations deciphering between the German, French and Japanese languages cited throughout our text book. My stomach dropped as I picked up the phone to explain the situation to him. If we wanted to travel together he had to book several flights to consulates and embassies to attend in-person meetings and beg permission to travel to the host countries as they limited the number of Jamaican visitors. Silence on the other end of the line, not an angry silence, but a knowing silence. He understood a lesson that my American privilege allowed me to escape, nothing is easy when you're born into the "Third World," not even for a budding attorney. Somehow the world found his presence less desirable than mine. His mind no more or less educated, contrary to my competitive nature he earned a higher grade on our final exam. Page by page, language by language, we learned the workings of the world, and nation by nation denied my friend's humanity. A thought I could not shake: The very nature of my existence as a citizen of the United States of America denies other persons their freedom. I am a civil and human rights attorney, yet I too am "the man" I criticize. By my birthright, am I not an oppressor?
I have often been taught that one does not enter into discourse about a problem without offering a solution. My intellectual limitations offer no quick-fix to the inequities and matrices of oppression created by our national and international immigration laws, but my conscience calls for humility and acknowledgement of the injustices that prevent all persons from experiencing equal opportunity to move freely throughout the world. When I think about the arbitrary lines we have drawn declaring national borders, a mathematical scheme emerges written using far too many "lesser than" symbols than "equal to" symbols. The true wealth of a nation is not its GDP, but the richness of its people, its culture, its history, the unique space that it occupies in the world. I think that God must be looking down and laughing at us. First World. Second World. Third World. We live in One World, and it's His.