As the partial government shutdown enters its second month, discussion of a physical border wall between the United States and Mexico continues to dominate the national discourse. While such a physical barrier raises countless legal, economic, and environmental concerns, we also cannot ignore the much larger and pernicious "invisible wall" that threatens our country and our bedrock values—a wall that creates profound social, economic, and legal barriers for immigrants, their families, and communities, and undermines the constitutional protections that we all enjoy.
This wall threatens everyone in the United States, regardless of immigration status. It spans the flagrant and arbitrary disregard of legal protections for asylum seekers, the separation of immigrant families, increased use of prolonged “civil” detention of immigrants in removal proceedings, proposed penalties for certain immigrants who access life-saving nutritional assistance and medical care, and the calculated undermining of the judicial independence of our immigration judges and members of the Board of Immigration Appeals. In our own state, this wall manifests itself through barriers to education for immigrant children and affordable housing to immigrant families, ostracizing “non-US citizen” labels on driver's licenses, and increased Immigration and Customs Enforcement checkpoints on our roads and in our communities.
While we must work to ensure national security, we must not do so at the peril of our individual liberties or our constitutional guarantees of equal protection. Our commitment to the rule of law must prioritize the constitutional principles of equal protection, due process, protections against unlawful searches/seizures, prolonged detention, and cruel and unusual punishment, as well as our treaty commitments to refugees and asylum-seekers.
We must all take affirmative steps to dismantle this “invisible wall” that divides our country, state, and communities. Here are some ways that you can take action:
⁃ If you are an attorney or speak a non-English language, contact us to volunteer to represent a
Mississippi immigrant family in need of legal representation.
⁃ Host an “Immigration 101” or a “Know Your Rights” presentation for your community. Contact us
⁃ Support immigrant-led organizations and businesses in your local community.
⁃ Advocate for policies that protect and support immigrants. For more information, visit:
⁃ Catholic Legal Immigration Network (CLINIC): https://cliniclegal.org/
⁃ American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA): https://www.aila.org/
⁃ Protecting Immigrant Families: https://protectingimmigrantfamilies.org/
Amelia McGowan is a Staff Attorney with the Mississippi Center for Justice.