My heart sank when I saw human beings being rounded up like cattle by horseback-riding border patrols, using their reins as whips. Did they even think the people they were treating like animals were human? Watching the scene was like watching a horror movie, where the human victims would be caught, branded like cattle and then sold to the highest bidder. What a shameful blot on America.
But this was no movie. This is America, where for centuries, immigrants have been encouraged to come.
“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free... The wretched refuse of your teeming shore... Send them, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me... I lift my lamp beside the Golden Door.”
I thought of the words from poetess Emma Lazarus, who wrote the poem in 1883. I first learned of the poem after it was set to music, and the late Leila Williams, my choir director at Booker T. Washington High School, thought the poem and its meaning was important enough to teach our choir to sing it. I can still see Mrs. Williams standing before the choir, teaching us to sing the heart-wrenching words in beautiful harmony. The words became alive to us, so much so that I have have never forgotten them, nor their meaning. I understood what they meant to people seeking a better life in America — some people who even looked like me.
When I saw the thousands of people huddled beneath the International Bridge, I thought about the words of Emma Lazarus and wondered what she would think about the actions of the U.S. Border Patrol and how they treated “the huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”
As I write this column, I know there are no easy answers to our immigrant problems and that sometimes, even praying doesn’t seem to be enough. It’s times like these that I know I must hang on to my faith, to trust the Lord to give us solutions.
Haitians are fleeing desperate situations
Many Haitians fled the poverty and hopelessness in their own country to live in South and Central American countries, hoping to one day immigrate to America. Thousands of them believed the rumors that gave them hope of a new home here. They are the desperate people who were lied to.
I am sure that the sight of thousands of people “yearning to breathe free” emerging all at once at our borders was overwhelming to those who keep watch. But herding up human beings like cattle? There must have been a better way to do this.
To make matters even worse, planeloads of Haitian immigrants are being taken back to Haiti, where the people there are still climbing out from under the second major earthquake in a decade. Not to mention the political unrest and the gangs roaming the streets, hindering some areas from getting much-needed supplies such as clean drinking water.
In a Miami Herald story last week by Jacqueline Charles, the Biden administration said it will “try to contain the surge by ramping up deportation flights to Haiti, and that the White House has directed U.S. agencies to work with the Haitian and other regional governments to provide assistance and support to returnees.”
These are encouraging words that look good on paper. But we know that the thousands of Haitians being deported are in for hard times. Their cities are in shambles. There is nowhere to go for help. Hospitals have been reduced to outdoor tents. There is a shortage of even the basic supplies of food and water, and of medical and personal hygiene items and safe shelter.
So, what are the people to do as they wait for the slow-turning wheels of justice? If you were in their shoes, wouldn’t you try to leave, too?
No easy answers, but horseback-riding patrols seriously erred
It is easy to sit in our comfortable homes, where we have an ample supply of water and food — enough to throw away — and say what should be done in such a situation. There are no easy answers, my friends. The city of Del Rio, Texas, and its leaders are overwhelmed. I am overwhelmed just watching and reading the news.
While I can’t imaging what was going through the minds of the horseback-riding border patrols as they lashed out at fleeing Haitians seeking refuge, I do know that they made a grave mistake. And I hope they have had time to think about their actions and now know that they did is no way to treat fellow human beings.
Right now, however, we can’t dwell on their actions because there are airplanes leaving this country every day filled with our Haitian brothers and sisters, deporting them back to a land of political chaos and devastating poverty. Every person stepping from an airplane back on the soil of Haiti is adding more pain to already-existing pain. We have got to think about how we can help ease the situation.
It is at times like these that we tend to think that whatever we do to help the Haitian situation is not enough. I know this because I often feel that way, too. Yet in my heart, I know that every dollar bill, every bottle of water, every pair of shoes or each T-shirt sent to our Haitian brothers and sisters is a step in the right direction.
Each of us can do something.
As I donate, I pray that the Lord will multiply what has been given because as the song goes, “Little becomes much when it’s placed in the Master’s hands.”
Bea L. Hines can be reached at Bea.email@example.com.