Thanks to Hil­lary Clin­ton, the Democrats’ big se­cret is out: They too hate mi­gra­tion

Miami Herald (Sunday) - - In Depth - BY FABI­OLA SAN­TI­AGO fsan­ti­[email protected]­ami­her­

Thanks to a rare un­scripted mo­ment for Hil­lary Clin­ton, the Democrats’ big se­cret is out: It’s not only Pres­i­dent Don­ald

Trump and his sup­port­ers who loath im­mi­grants knock­ing at our doors. Too many Democrats also re­ject “mi­gra­tion,” she re­minds us.

How could I for­get?

Be­fore Bill Clin­ton was pres­i­dent, we were called Cuban refugees.

Even dur­ing the un­ruly Mariel boatlift of 1980 that brought 125,000 peo­ple to South Florida dur­ing Jimmy Carter’s pres­i­dency, it re­mained so. But as Clin­ton faced the chal­lenge of thou­sands of Cubans tak­ing to the seas in rick­ety home­made rafts — 35,000 by the ex­o­dus’ end — we be­came “mi­grants,” so named by his ad­min­is­tra­tion. Haitian refugees, too, flee­ing bloody regimes and poverty earned the ti­tle, both groups in­ter­cepted at sea and de­tained at newly erected refugee camps at the Navy base in in Guan­tanamo, Cuba.

Mi­grant, a word coined by gov­ern­ment types to lump to­gether peo­ple flee­ing for their lives, has a flight­i­ness to it that I de­test. It im­plies peo­ple in des­per­ate cir­cum­stances have a choice to make — and they choose the con­ve­nience of flee­ing. It is not so.

But most of all, this vague word keeps priv­i­leged, safe peo­ple de­tached from the view of life be­ing sucked out of oth­ers.

With a vo­cab­u­lary stripped from hu­man­ity, you can talk about “the mi­gra­tion is­sue,” as Hil­lary Clin­ton has done in an in­ter­view with The Guardian, and sound per­fectly log­i­cal to her­self as she en­cour­ages Euro­pean lead­ers to with­hold “refuge and sup­port.”

How eas­ily she dis­re­gards those im­mi­grants across the United States who voted for her when “em­brace im­mi­grants, not den­i­grate them” was her im­mi­gra­tion plat­form in the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

“I think Europe needs to get a han­dle on mi­gra­tion be­cause that is what lit the flame,” Clin­ton said in the in­ter­view, con­ducted be­fore the midterm elec­tions Nov. 6. “I ad­mire the very gen­er­ous and com­pas­sion­ate ap­proaches that were taken par­tic­u­larly by lead­ers like An­gela Merkel, but I think it is fair to say Europe has done its part, and must send a very clear mes­sage — ‘we are not go­ing to be able to con­tinue pro­vide refuge and sup­port’ — be­cause if we don’t deal with the mi­gra­tion is­sue it will con­tinue to roil the body politic.”

Oh, how very in­con­ve­nient for Democrats that the world has a refugee prob­lem that has brought big­ots out of the closet to win elec­tions in the United States and Italy and claim vic­tory in Bri­tain’s Brexit ref­er­en­dum — and threat­ened to do like­wise else­where in Europe.

But if you can’t count on the Democrats in this na­tion of im­mi­grants to lead on im­mi­gra­tion with facts, in­tel­li­gence and com­pas­sion, then who?

Both Repub­li­cans and Clin­ton­styled Democrats fail to un­der­stand that most peo­ple love their home­lands and don’t want to leave them, but are forced to do so.

You don’t know what it’s like to be a refugee flee­ing po­lit­i­cal per­se­cu­tion or the cru­elty of a dic­ta­to­rial regime un­less you’ve been in our skin.

You don’t know what it’s like to be an im­mi­grant strug­gling to rise above poverty, hunger, and hope­less­ness un­less you’ve been poor, hun­gry and with­out hope.

You cer­tainly have no idea what it’s like to flee a war un­less ar­tillery is rip­ping through your walls, bombs are fall­ing over your head and your chil­dren are be­ing gassed to death.

But at least, we thought, some elected to lead could rise above the pol­i­tics of ex­clu­sion, divi­sion and racism to pro­vide so­lu­tions, not add an­other de­plorable level to the na­tivist nar­ra­tive that im­mi­gra­tion is what’s wrong with the world.

Clin­ton’s words feel like be­trayal.

Good peo­ple like Dream­ers, their par­ents, and tem­po­rary pro­tec­tion sta­tus hold­ers who’ve lived in this coun­try for decades are count­ing on the Democrats’ good sense to bring per­ma­nent le­gal sta­tus to their lives.

If top Democrats aren’t go­ing to fight for them, then who?

She throws her weight with the Repub­li­cans for the sake of “the body politic” at a mo­ment when Pres­i­dent Trump has taken ex- traor­di­nary mea­sures to cur­tail le­gal im­mi­gra­tion and to keep asy­lum seek­ers away from the bor­der, where they do, ac­cord­ing to U.S law, have the right to re­quest it.

But, then again, his lat­est move to force asy­lum seek­ers to wait in Mex­ico as cases are pro­cessed is rem­i­nis­cent of her hus­band’s tent-city de­ten­tion in Guan­tanamo.

“You don’t counter racists by giv­ing in to them just like you don’t fight fire with gaso­line,” Frank Sharry, founder and ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Wash­ing­ton­based Amer­ica’s Voice, tells me. “You fight right-wing pop­ulists by build­ing a ma­jor­ity coali­tion that stands up to their di­vide­and-con­quer strat­egy and stands for pop­ulist eco­nomic poli­cies that im­prove lives. That’s what Democrats just did, and they soundly de­feated Trump’s ver­sion of ethno-na­tion­al­ism — with­out throw­ing refugees and im­mi­grants un­der the bus.”

There is the slimmest of sil­ver lin­ings to Clin­ton’s ill-timed and mis­guided com­ments.

It al­lows the rest of us to con­front what we had for­got­ten was al­ways there.

For once, it’s not Don­ald Trump’s lack of hu­man­ity mak­ing me so an­gry I can’t breathe.

And, at least now, I can stop mourn­ing Clin­ton los­ing the pres­i­dency.

Fol­low Fabi­ola San­ti­ago on Twit­ter, @fabi­o­las­an­ti­ago

Hon­duran gov­ern­ment web­site

In July, 2017, the Hon­duran gov­ern­ment posted a photo of a newly formed bat­tal­ion of Hon­duran mil­i­tary po­lice of­fi­cers.

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