Betty BeanKnox Scene

I’m keeping the headline of the schmaltzy New Year’s Eve column I’d written about dealing with the loss of old friends. But the news stories being generated by the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision to delay the impending termination of the Trump-era immigration policy known as Title 42, which was allegedly meant to contain the spread of Covid by keeping asylum-seeking Central American immigrants out of the country is too grotesque to ignore.

Like any policy influenced by former Trump aide Stephen Miller – author of institutionalized cruelties like the Muslim travel ban and the policy of separating migrant children from their parents – its true motives are deeply suspect and should shame anyone who actually concerns themselves with the question of what Jesus would do.

These are families and working people who have fled violence and repression in their countries of origin, not unlike the generations of migrants who came here before them. Drawn northward by the news that the Biden administration was preparing to let Title 42 expire with the coming new year, they sold their belongings and started walking, covering hundreds of miles while braving plunging temperatures and criminal predators for a chance at a new life. Those who made it to the border have been shivering on the sidewalks, waiting and hoping.

It’s easy and popular to denounce our immigration policy while offering no solutions. But it should be hard to watch the real-life suffering during this Christmas season as grandstanding border state governors with visions of presidential sugarplums dancing in their heads lure desperate, hopeful migrants onto buses under the guise of helping them find places to go.

Juxtapose these images with the news stories of widespread labor shortages making daily life difficult in this country. Something just doesn’t compute.

Exactly what jobs are immigrants taking away from the rest of us?

Few ever want to leave their friends and extended families to head for foreign lands. Nobody leaves home without a reason.

I’m ending this screed with a poem by Somali-born Warsan Shire, who is now a British citizen. It’s a powerful and true-ringing explication of asylum-seeking. It’s called “home.”

Read it and tell me what you would do to save your children.

“no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark
you only run for the border
when you see the whole city running as well

your neighbors running faster than you

breath bloody in their throats
the boy you went to school with
who kissed you dizzy behind the old tin factory
is holding a gun bigger than his body
you only leave home
when home won’t let you stay.

no one leaves home unless home chases you
fire under feet
hot blood in your belly
it’s not something you ever thought of doing
until the blade burnt threats into
your neck
and even then you carried the anthem under
your breath
only tearing up your passport in an airport toilet
sobbing as each mouthful of paper
made it clear that you wouldn’t be going back.

you have to understand,
that no one puts their children in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land
no one burns their palms
under trains
beneath carriages
no one spends days and nights in the stomach of a truck
feeding on newspaper unless the miles travelled
means something more than journey.
no one crawls under fences
no one wants to be beaten

no one chooses refugee camps
or strip searches where your
body is left aching
or prison,
because prison is safer
than a city of fire
and one prison guard
in the night
is better than a truckload
of men who look like your father
no one could take it
no one could stomach it
no one skin would be tough enough

go home blacks
dirty immigrants
asylum seekers
sucking our country dry
niggers with their hands out
they smell strange
messed up their country and now they want
to mess ours up
how do the words
the dirty looks
roll off your backs
maybe because the blow is softer
than a limb torn off

or the words are more tender
than fourteen men between
your legs
or the insults are easier
to swallow
than rubble
than bone
than your child body
in pieces.
i want to go home,
but home is the mouth of a shark
home is the barrel of the gun
and no one would leave home
unless home chased you to the shore
unless home told you
to quicken your legs
leave your clothes behind
crawl through the desert
wade through the oceans
be hunger
forget pride
your survival is more important

no one leaves home until home is a sweaty voice in your ear
run away from me now
i dont know what i’ve become
but i know that anywhere
is safer than here.”

Betty Bean writes a Thursday opinion column for KnoxTNToday.com.


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