“America First” is “I’m Next” and Then “You’re Next”

What’s happening to immigrants and undocumented in this country is a shameful abomination future generations will judge all of us by. The practice of turning away asylum seekers at the border has suddenly become routine, in defiance of U.S. and International law. In a six week period, 2,000 children have been taken and imprisoned.

The outcome of each individual US city’s failure to pass resolutions to protect Dreamers is directly related to this shame. It’s permission. It’s complicity. It says we won’t protect our people. In the absence of protective cities, the practice of separating families, turning away asylum seekers, and caging children has become routine. 

The bills presented in Congress are hostage negotiations that do not address actual systemic immigration issues and will not help Nebraskans.

I am not afraid of humans except for what is inhuman in them. And that’s exactly what this inhumanity is meant to do – create enough fear to give way to the growing authoritarian regime. And I’m afraid of that inhumanity. Nebraskans are afraid. But we refuse to let that fear define us.

If you do not protect our people, our kin, our Dreamers, you will be left here with us, the people who will remember you as who are, for what you did. DACA recipients and the undocumented people are forced to live their lives with perfection so that you don’t send them away. They are forced into achieving more, being more, and politely asking you, “am I good enough to stay? Have I performed Americanism enough for your permission to stay? Am I civil enough?”

You’ve come to expect performative civility from people who see you as you silently support cruelly and callously ripping families apart. But if you do not even support saving DACA recipients, those of us left here with you will know we are next. Our families are next, our children are next, and we will KNOW in the depths of our being that civility didn’t work. That these good people have worked their entire lives to meet your expectations and that you didn’t care. That there’s no way we can politely escape the wrath of “America First.”

“America First” is racist, white nationalist nonsense with its roots in the anti-Semitic “America First Foundation” that encouraged Americans to turn their back on Hitler’s power and only disbanded in disgrace after Pearl Harbor.

America First has made America weaker in the world, isolated, our alliances broken and replaced with vague, unpromising “deals” without receipts and with intentions not even this administration will keep.

And “America First” has made us weaker in Nebraska, too. Our politicians, you, are impotent in the eyes of the nation. Unable and unwilling to protect your own people, our farmers, our rural Nebraskans, our huge refugee population, our women, our people with disabilities, our most vulnerable children in rural communities. They see you. And we see you pitting us against each other. We see that you want us to believe that each of our survivals and the permission to be an “equal” Nebraskan is pinned against the survival and equality of our kin. As if Lincoln is a pie, and someone might get the last piece. Do you really expect us to believe Lincoln is a place of opportunity and growth, but also a pie that might run out at the same time.

This administration plans to keep imprisoning children at the southern border unless we agree to their growing demands, such as funding a border wall monument to Trumpism. Children are hostages and sacrifices. Literally pawns. And the groundwork for this abuse was laid by you, leaders in American cities, who refused to protect DACA recipients.

You may see this as radicalism or hysteria, but we will not be dismissed or shamed for responding to the fear “America First” was designed to create.

“America First” is a pressure cooker and you’re building a bomb. And you’re threatening to send away good people who have always treated you with civility. And you’re locking yourselves in here with the rest of us while proving to everyone outside of Nebraska that you are impotent to save your own people.

“America First” is “I’m next” and then “you’re next.”

If you think it’s not that bad, ask yourselves what kind of performance you would be willing to give to stay here. Ask yourselves what kind of prison you would want for your own kids. What kind of murals do you want on the walls that hold them away from you? And if that feels like a threat, if that feels uncivil, ask yourself what about you gives you the audacity and inhumanity to command it of anyone else.