The biography relied heavily on letters that Benjamin wrote during this increasingly desperate period. Something that jumped out to me was the frequency with which he mentioned belongings. There were multiple times he listed his meager possessions. These lists also included laments about needing something -a book, a tool, an article of clothing- that he had left behind in one place or another. This made me reflect on an important question: What would you bring? If you suddenly had to leave your life. If unexpectedly the political winds shifted in such a way that your family was in danger, what possessions would you pack into the bag or two that you could carry?
The question is difficult, but I think it is valuable because it has the potential to humanize the experience of exile and immigration. While the foreignness of a country and culture we do not know might make it difficult to imagine the life of a Central American who feels the need to flee, it is possible to reflect on our own lives and what it would mean to leave. At least this is what I hope. We need to think about these situations in as human a way as possible. The news this week brings us more than one tragedy and it is important not to ignore what is happening.
The Trump administration has been separating immigrant children from their families. This in itself is tragic. However, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency decided to take advantage of this by using these children as bait. 170 immigrants were arrested by ICE when they volunteered to take care of the children held by the government. In other words, the government separated children from their immigrant families and then used the kids to ensnare more immigrants. Of course, this also means that the children continue in government custody and now it is little likely that others will volunteer to help them. Here is an article that describes this heartbreaking scheme.
This week also brought us news of the death of a 7-year-old girl. She was Guatemalan and had been detained by Border Patrol. In their custody, she began to have seizures that were possibly caused by dehydration and hunger. The death has newly brought attention to the border and the detention of thousands of people in questionable conditions. Here is an article describing the story in detail. In response to the child’s death, Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, Trump’s political appointee responsible for this situation, took advantage of the the 7-year-old’s death by transforming it into a warning for people considering immigration: