“[Man] is immortal . . . because he …has a spirit capable of compassion. . . .”
— William Faulkner, Speech upon receiving the 1950 Nobel Prize
My apologies to my readers. I am sure they get tired of hearing about immigrants. Immigrants get tired of being in a position where the likes of me are compelled to write about them.
This week we do not focus on children and how they have been treated. It’s not that we couldn’t. Consider the recent story in the New York Times. It tells us that there are now 12,800 children being detained by the U.S. government. Many of these are children in foster homes, or living with sponsors in relatively comfortable circumstances. Now we have learned that some of these children were transferred from foster homes and other shelters in the middle of the night without advance warning. That was done because it was feared that if they were told about the impending transfers, or if the transfers took place in the middle of the day, they might have tried to run away.
The abducted children were taken to a new facility built in Tornillo, Texas. It is described as a “temporary” tent city. It costs about $750 a day per child according to Rosa DeLauro, the ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations subcommittee. That’s about what a REALLY nice hotel costs, but Tornillo lacks many of the amenities provided by those hotels. Furthermore, schooling is not available in Tornillo, and only very limited legal services are available. Like very nice hotels, however, there is air conditioning in the tents in which the children live. Soon, 3,800 children will be in residence in Tornillo.
But we’re not talking about children today. We’re talking about grown-ups-among them the ones involved in a program known as MAVNI, and beneficiaries of another program known as TPS. MAVNI is short for “Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest,” and is a program for immigrants coming from Sudan, El Salvador, Haiti, and Nicaragua.
MAVNI was created to attract immigrants skilled in medicine and linguistics into the armed forces. In exchange for their willingness to serve, they were promised an accelerated route to citizenship. Not all immigrants were eligible to participate in the program. Participants had to have a green card or a valid visa, and in exchange for their service, were placed on an accelerated path to citizenship.
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One immigrant explained to an Associated Press interviewer his reason for entering MAVNI. He was almost certainly speaking for many others in the program. He said: “It was my dream to serve in the military. Since this country has been so good to me, I thought it was the least I could do to give back to my adopted country and serve in the United States military.” Being given an accelerated path to permanent residency was, of course, an additional benefit.
In 2016, 5000 immigrants were recruited into the program, and more than 10,000 were then serving. For those seeking permanent resident status it seemed like a great program-until it wasn’t. People who had signed contracts to participate in the program, and had done so with the promise that they would be on an accelerated path to citizenship, suddenly found the United States government slimily led by the man called Trump, reneging on the promises it had made to the participants. In the middle of 2016, the program was ended and the government began unilaterally revoking the contracts that the immigrants had entered into with the United States government, claiming that the participants had not been sufficiently vetted and posed security threats.
Confronted with lawsuits challenging the discharges, the government quietly ended the discharge practice in the middle of 2018. It is now reportedly trying to come up with different reasons for discharging participants in the MAVNI program. The consequences of being discharged from the program can be severe, since many of those whose contracts were terminated had temporary visas or green cards that had expired while they were participating in the program. With their protected status revoked, they are subject to immediate deportation instead of being on an accelerated path to permanent residency.
Participants in the MAVNI program are not the only members of a group of immigrants suddenly confronted with the threat of deportation. There are 220,000 people living in the United States with Temporary Protected Status (TPS). They come from 10 different countries and attained that status having fled their homes because of war, floods, droughts, epidemics, or armed conflict. In many cases they have lived here for decades starting businesses, raising children, and in all respects mirroring the lives of those born and raised here.
In another demonstration of his determination to appeal to the bigots in the country who, like him, dislike immigrants, the White House fool has decreed an end to the TPS program, and ordered its participants to return home. A class action has been brought seeking to block the administration from ending the program. Federal Judge Edward Chen has temporarily blocked the administration from kicking out those in the program. Only time will tell how secure its beneficiaries are as the lawsuit progresses.
Perhaps the children in Tornillo are not as bad off as other classes of immigrants. Their tents are air conditioned. The other classes of immigrants described above may soon find themselves, once again, in the countries they fled, probably without air conditioning.