The Disappeared In America

James E. Johnson Jr. • Jan 25, 2010

Across the U.S. hundreds of thousands of good people have disappeared without warning; some say it happened in the blink of an eye. No, it is not the Divine Rapture. People have disappeared because they believed in the American dream. More than 369,000 people who believed in the dream and worked toward making the dream become a reality are being held in detention facilities for following it.

Recently, there has been a focus on how our broken immigration system is turning the American dream into a nightmare for those who are working to make it their own. As the New Year approached, Jean Montrevil, who worked not just to make the dream a reality for himself and his family but also for others, was snatched up when he appeared for his regular immigration check in. Jean Montrevil is an example of the American story that is a model of redemption. The type of story that Frank Capra made movies about and for which people shed tears. Montrevil paid his debt to society, with a three year stint in prison for a conviction in 1989. Since that time Montrevil has given back to the community and the country with hard work and dedication to the American dream.

There is also the case of Nurul Alam who gave all the people that he met kindness and joy by selling fruit and giving his heart. Suddenly, Alam was gone from his usual location on Park Avenue in New York City, leaving patrons and friends to wonder what had happened to him. These are just a couple of the cases taking place in cities around the country to thousands of people who are trying to make the American dream a reality for themselves and others in this country.

Many have suffered inhumane treatment while in U. S. custody. Family separation and the jailing of children were detailed in the New Yorker article, The Lost Children. Recent reports, such as the one by Human Rights Watch, US: Immigration Detention Neglects Health, have described the lack of concern for the health of those detained. Other reports detail the inappropriate treatment of people, held by order of the U.S. government, sometimes leading to death according to a NY Times article.

The government has turned to a policy of disappearing people that have been victimized by the broken immigration system in the U.S., a broken immigration system that criminalizes thoughts of or striving for the American dream. When did we decide that it was good that America should be mentioned in the same breath as Argentina, the Soviet Union, Iran, and others where people were routinely rounded up and disappeared?

While people are calling for reform of the detention system, let us not forget it is just one of the symptoms of a broken immigration system. Let us work to develop a just and humane immigration system that meets the ideals that we value as Americans. Let us work towards the ideals and values that are looked upon as the shining example of what we want nations of the world to be.

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