essays on suffering and awakening

Four quick thoughts on what we can do to help immigrant people

As an American citizen, I want to acknowledge the way that immigrant people are being treated by our federal government—including Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the Departments of Homeland Security and Justice, and the President of the United States. Even a brief look at the available reporting makes it clear that agents of the government, acting on the will of the president and his top advisors, are continually assaulting and abusing those who have come to our country looking for a better life. There aren’t words that do justice to the hurt our government is causing these people.

What can we do about it?

Four thoughts.

First, vote for every Democrat on the ballot in November. The abuse of immigrant people in America has a bipartisan history—the more I learn about the way immigrant people were treated under the Obama Administration, the more disturbed I am. But things have clearly gotten worse under the Trump Administration. A Democratic Congress should help reign in the worst behavior, if nothing else. Hopefully, it would do far more.

Second, reach out to our elected representatives. Whether our members of Congress are Democratic or Republican, we should contact them, and ask that they take action to severely curtail the abuses perpetrated by federal law enforcement agencies. I think ICE and CBP should be abolished entirely, and that we should rethink how we handle immigration and the border from the ground up. If enough of us speak out, maybe it will make a difference.

Third, donate or volunteer. Organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union or the National Immigration Law Center offer legal support and advocacy for immigrant people in need. Find one whose work you admire, and help them out in whatever way you can.

Fourth, and perhaps most important, each of us can make an ongoing effort to see all human beings as, well, human. The immigrant people seeking to join our nation are being abused precisely because those running our government don’t see them as fully human. They don’t see that immigrant people suffer and love and want food and shelter and security and purpose for themselves and their children, just as they do.

This is the common thread in all human rights abuses, in all human cruelty—believing that the person you are harming is somehow different and separate from you.

We can’t make others see through that delusion, but we can devote ourselves to seeing through it. We can do this through honest introspection and spiritual practice, through meditation or listening or praying for the well-being of all—those we love, those we think we hate, and those we don’t particularly care about. We can make an effort to see clearly—to see that all living beings want to be alive and love and be loved, just as we do. We can learn to see ourselves in the faces of everyone we meet on the street.

That’s a responsibility and power that each of us has. That’s how we break the cycle. In the long run, that’s how this madness ends.

If anyone has additional thoughts or suggestions, please share them below.

Ian Cooper