In two to three weeks, the migrant caravan heading towards the U.S. border will stop in a town a half hour away from where I’m living. Right now supplies are being collected by local relief organizations to provide aid and assistance, things like socks, diapers, shoes, toothbrushes, clothing, food, and blankets. Living in close proximity to the caravan heading north sheds new light on the desperation that so many people groups around the world experience daily.
In debates over immigration, I often hear the refrain “Why can’t people do things in an orderly and legal way. There are procedures in place. This blunt disregard of the system is wrong.” This is the critique often made of both individuals trying to cross the border and mass groups in particular, such as this one. To me, this critique can only be spoken from a place of privilege. When your life is safe, secure, and without threat, you have all the time in the world to assume, well, if others played by the rules like I do (or have), a lot of this chaos would be solved. However, this privileged, and might I add simple, viewpoint neglects to understand the dynamic faced by people truly in crisis. When your life is threatened, or you face poverty or violence so extreme that walking thousands of miles is actually an attractive option, you are thinking on an entirely different plane. Your sole focus is survival, with a glimmer of hope that surely there is a life somewhere where I will not live in fear, danger, poverty, or hunger. When you are fleeing for your life, the “rules” of the system you are heading towards are not guiding your behavior. Desperation is, and a longing to live.
Just as the migrant caravan has a felt need for the supplies that are being collected for them, surely I (and might I add we) have an equal need to have our American and privileged world views transformed. The danger of privilege is that it colors our interpretation of “right and wrong,” and at the same time distorts our view of justice and love. This is especially troublesome, given that those with privilege possess the most resources to balance the gross inequality in the world.
If nothing else, Americans should be able to understand a people group driven by their belief that things can be better. Surely this is something that can garner a show of compassion, not military deployment, understanding, not judgement, and a renewed effort to solve the complexities inherent in the immigration system. For we must remember that it is not “us and them.” We are fellow citizens on this planet who are inextricably tied together in our common humanity.