A Person Next to You: The State of Immigration

Xander, My 3 Year Old Godson

On December 3 I traveled back home to El Paso, Texas for my godson’s 3rd birthday party. I was excited to be going back home and to see my family whom I had not seen since the summer. As I was getting off the plane, I was happy and eager to celebrate, however, that would be short lived.

When I got to the area where people could wait for those arriving, I saw my parents and we started to walk towards the entrance/exit of the airport to head to the vehicle to head home and get ready to the party. Immediately something caught my eye. The line for TSA security, which is usually never that long at the El Paso airport, was as long as I had ever seen it. The line reached the entrance and people were not in single file but in rows of 3-4. I was both shocked and curious. My first thought was “How long is it going to take for me to get through security when I head back home to Austin?” A selfish thought I will admit, but one that I’m sure everyone has thought at one point. But as I got closer to the line, I noticed many people wearing similar outfits. Groups of people were wearing sweatpants with at least 70% of the line being dressed like this.

My parents noticed me looking and quickly explained that the people in those outfits were the migrants/immigrants that Greg Abbott has been sending out of Texas. These were all innocent people who were simply hoping to enter the US to better their lives for themselves and their families. I knew this had been happening, but this was the first time I had seen it with my own eyes. This devastated me! I was hit with a rush of emotions: I was angry, sad, helpless along with many others. Why was this happening? What made someone think another person should be treated like this. I left that airport angry, however, this would not be the end of my eye-opening journey.

Upon the end of my trip, I was ready to go back home to Austin. My parents took me to the airport and dropped me off. I headed to the TSA security area and noticed the line was nonexistent. I got through in less than 10 minutes which was a far cry from what I had witnessed just days earlier. At my gate, I sat down and began to look around. I immediately noticed a family of three and a girl who could not be more that 18 sitting near me in the same outfit I had witnessed at my arrival: the sweatpants. As I was looking around, we all made eye contact and I smiled at them. I didn’t know what else I could do other than offer a friendly face to let them know I was there. When it came time to board the flight, I saw panic in all their eyes. Although the family and young girls were not related, they had all grouped together. They looked around and found me holding up their boarding pass pointing to it and asking me in Spanish what it all meant. It was at this moment that I again became angry, but this time far angrier than before. I realized that migrants/immigrants are just dropped off at the airport with no explanation of the procedures for air travel nor any preparation on what to expect. Having grown up with my grandmother raising me, I learned Spanish at a young age. I was thankfully able to explain what it all meant but inside I wondered what if no one around was willing and able to help. Since Donald Trump, a man who I still refuse to acknowledge as a president, anti-immigrant sentiment has only grown stronger and in my opinion more deadly.

To my dismay, things only got worse on the flight. The young girl stayed near me and found a seat across from me. As we were pulling away from the terminal a flight attendant, who did not speak Spanish, attempted to inform the young girl that she had to put her backpack under the seat. I quickly noticed the issue and stepped in to translate. On this flight there was no crew member who spoke Spanish and due to this I immediately grew protective of this young girl. She was on this flight and had no idea what was going on and no one who should have been there to help and/or protect her was doing so. She had become a victim in the unjust immigration system in our country. As the flight began to takeoff, I saw her cling on to the seat and armrests in fear. I later learned this was her first flight and she didn’t know what to expect. Instead of spending 10 minutes explaining to her what to expect she had just been dropped off at the airport with nothing more than a boarding pass and identification. As we landed and began to get off the plane, I checked with her to see if she knew where to go and thankfully two women sitting behind me, who had also built a connection to this girl, were connecting to the same flight, Baltimore, and were going to have her go with them. I felt better knowing that someone would be there with her through her next flight and offer her support. As I passed the family who was also on my flight, I checked with them to make sure they were ok, and they assured me they were. I left that plane heartbroken. A person next to me was struggling and if it had not been for the 2 women behind me and myself travel would have been far harder for the young girl and family.  

It is important to remember that you don’t know the story of the person next to you. Never assume you know what their story is or circumstances they are facing.  

What is important to note is that many think with Trump leaving and Biden/Harris coming in, immigration policies have gotten more equitable and that those coming into the US are being treated fairly. However, this is far from the truth. Migrants/immigrants are being carted off into other areas without any regard. “Republican governors’ surprise drop-offs of thousands of asylum seekers and other migrants in Democratic-led cities has escalated and reframed a simmering political feud over immigration. While states have sparred with the federal government over enforcement and border security for years, their actions were chiefly to advance policies of their own or challenge federal policy through litigation, including over so-called sanctuary cities and the border wall. The busing and, in one instance, flights of migrants from Texas and Arizona have transformed the quarrel into one pitting Republican state officials against state- and city-level Democrats in the middle of an election season, exacerbating a deep red- and blue-state divide and bringing serious consequences for migrants, many of whom are asylum seekers. At least one governor in a blue state, California, has also joined the fray, urging a Justice Department investigation into whether some of the migrant transports constitute kidnapping…. As of mid-September, more than 13,000 migrants had been bused from Arizona and Texas to Washington, DC, New York, and Chicago; the nation’s capital received more than 8,100 individuals from Texas and about 1,800 from Arizona, New York City received more than 2,700 from Texas, and Chicago more than 770 from Texas.”[i]

The Biden administration has had little response to these events enacted by Arizona and Texas which leaves me questioning the priorities of this administration and how much they truly do care about the migrants/immigrants coming over. They often talk a big game and make promises but, in the end, they falter and work to placate the populous while not causing too many ripples. “Then-White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in April it was ‘nice the state of Texas is helping them get to their final destination.’ Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas only mildly criticized Abbott’s lack of coordination with federal authorities.”[ii] It is clear that this isn’t a priority for the administration, nor has it been for any except for Trump who took it as a priority but in a way that was inhumane and as cruel as one could get. Those who come over to the US are doing so wanting a better life. They are willing to go through incredible hardships, danger, life threatening conditions to get to the US, but in the end, they become nothing more than a troublesome burden for those in power. Until we begin to see each other as equals and truly begin to even try to understand the situations will this issue ever get the attention it deserves.

[i] Chishti, Muzaffar and Julia Gelatt. Busing and Flights of Migrants by GOP Governors Mark a New Twist in State Intervention on Immigration, https://www.migrationpolicy.org/article/migrant-asylum-seeker-busing.
[ii] Chishti, Muzaffar and Julia Gelatt. Busing and Flights of Migrants by GOP Governors Mark a New Twist in State Intervention on Immigration, https://www.migrationpolicy.org/article/migrant-asylum-seeker-busing.


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