Weekend Read: We're deporting people who were Americans before the U.S. existed

The screaming blocks out all other sound. In more than two minutes of footage, the only words audible above the girls’ sobbing:  “Get in the car.” “Mom!” “Where is she going?” “Are you guys alone?” “Yes.”

The video, posted to Facebook on Thursday, shows at least two Border Patrol agents physically tearing Perla Morales-Luna out of her daughters’ arms and pushing her into a U.S. Customs and Border Protection vehicle.

The family was on a street corner in National City, California, when Morales-Luna was taken. After the daughters watch the van with their mother disappear down the street, their screaming turns to hyperventilation, and the video cuts off.

It is a chilling window into the Trump administration’s anti-immigrant agenda — an agenda they’ve hardly sought to conceal.

Last month alone saw President Trump comparing immigrants to snakes, Chief of Staff John Kelly dismissing DREAMers as “too lazy to get off their asses,” and the House Immigration Subcommittee entertaining testimony from the representative of an anti-immigrant hate group.

The administration’s cruelty on the question of immigration is well-documented. But its zeal to deport anyone from south of the border fails to take into account the region’s history.

That’s what Betty Lyons, president of the American Indian Law Alliance and a citizen of the Onondaga Nation, reminds us in an op-ed for The Guardian this week.

As she points out, “[t]he U.S.-Mexico border is not an indigenous border.” Many of the same people whom the Trump administration is intent on deporting have had relatives on both sides  for far longer than the United States — not to mention the Immigration and Customs Enforcement — has even existed.

As Lyons writes:

As Indigenous Peoples, we know our history and we know our relatives. Many so-called “undocumented” people are in fact Indigenous Peoples, children of Original Nations with a millennial history of travel across the continent to trade and engage in ceremonial obligations at sacred sites of their traditional territories before the U.S. existed. …

Dividing families is something we cannot imagine doing to others, because we have been through this pain many times at the hands of the same government.

To deport people who are “undocumented” is to fail to recognize that we are a settler nation; that many of the families our government would split up actually predate our contemporary system of documentation; and that to deport them now is to blithely repeat the sins of our past.

“For us,” Lyons writes, “DACA is not an immigration crisis. It is a human rights crisis.”

But on Monday, Congress missed its deadline to create a legislative replacement for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that Trump ended in September.

A day later, Attorney General Jeff Sessions sued the state of California over its laws limiting ICE’s ability to find, hold and deport undocumented immigrants.

And as the screams and sobs of Perla Morales-Luna's daughters remind us, no human being is illegal. Our policies should reflect that truth — and our own American history.

The Editors

P.S. Here are some other pieces we think are valuable this week:

Photo by David McNew/Getty Images

SPLC’s Weekend Read is a weekly summary of the most important news reporting and commentary from around the country on civil rights, economic and racial inequality, and hate and extremism. Sign up to receive the Weekend Read every Saturday morning.