Perspective: What Would It Take?

By: Robert Bryson

I was born in the United States, as were both my parents, and my fathers’ family back to the colonies. My mother’s parents emigrated here from the Philippines. My mother’s father joined the U.S. Navy for citizenship and fought in Vietnam as an American. Just because I was born in this country, does not mean that I cannot appreciate the fear, perseverance, and hope that drives a person to leave everything and everyone they have ever known. This post will challenge you to imagine what it would take for you to leave.

The point of these questions isn’t to advocate for unfettered immigration, to abolish borders, or defund immigration control. Of course, some forms of border control are necessary. Of course, people should follow the rules. The point is to emphasize that the people who leave their homes come here out of desperation. Nothing the United States does will discourage them from coming. Nothing we can do will be worse than what they endured coming here.

What would it take for you to leave your family? Your town? Your home?

What would it take for you to travel thousands of miles through places you do not know?

What would it take for you to leave everything you’ve ever known? To leave your family. To leave your friends. To leave everything that is familiar.

What if the journey was uncertain? What if the cost was exorbitant? More than you could make in a year. It would take every dollar you’ve ever saved.

What if you didn’t know how to get there? Your only hope was to trust your safety to smugglers? Traffickers? Militia?

Your destination is a foreign country. Thousands of miles from home. You don’t speak the language. You don’t know the culture. You don’t know anyone. You’re not even sure what’s going to happen when you get there. You’ve heard stories that they are safe. That they are rich. That they are a shining city on the hill. That they will protect you.

What would it take for you to leave? To go without any promises. To go with only hope. Hope that you will find a job. Hope that you will send money back to your family. Hope that your family will survive without you.

What would it take for you to leave?

Unimaginable horror. That is what it would take you to leave. Pain. Suffering. Privation. And, after suffering so much, overcoming the fear, and enduring the journey:

How would you want to be received?

Consider the type of person who has the courage, perseverance, intelligence, and luck to undertake such a journey. The refugees, asylum seekers, and even those planning on unlawfully entering represent some of the strongest, toughest, smartest, and luckiest people on the planet. They survived gangs, war, famine, and state-sponsored terrorism. They left their language, culture, and families. They left without guarantee or promise. They left with only the barest of hopes.

Enforcing immigration rules does not mean we should lose our compassion, our humanity. It is possible to draft and enforce immigration rules that are compassionate. Not everyone will or should be granted asylum. Not everyone will or should be admitted as a refugee. But everyone should be treated humanely. It is literally the least we can do.

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