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The Least Among Us

Apr 07, 2009

And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
Matthew 25:40 (King James Version)

Arguably, the least of our brethren are our nation’s undocumented immigrants. We currently hold over 30,000 of them in jails, prisons, and other confinement structures, more than three times the number held just 10 years ago.1 They may languish there for months or even years without judicial review, in violation of international human rights standards.

Though every story is different, these people have fled from hopelessness in search of promise. They have braved perilous waters in unseaworthy ships or suffocation in closed vehicles traveling thousands of miles. Once here, they are forced to work for criminal employers at the lowest of wages, live in constant fear of harrassment and arrest without rights or public services, and survive at the mercy of a few friends and dumb luck.

And woe unto them if they are caught. Tossed into a legal gulag of Kafkaesque proportions, they may languish for years without access to representation or the judicial system, far from family and friends, and deprived of the simple due process guarantees we afford any petty criminal. Read Edwidge Danticat’s Brother, I’m Dying for an eloquent and detailed account of the hapless fate of just one of these individuals.2 Read Amnesty International’s report, Jailed Without Justice (.pdf, 662Kb, 56 pp.), to gain a fuller picture of just how far short we as a nation fall that prides itself on welcoming the downtrodden, in our treatment of “the least among our brethren.”
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1 Immigrant Detention, from Amnesty International, undated, accessed Apr 4, 2009.
2 Brother, I’m Dying, by Edwidge Danticat, at Amazon.com, accessed Apr 4, 2009
tags: Immigration | Poverty

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