How American Children Lose Respect for the Border Patrol

How American Children Lose Respect for the Border Patrol

"I am a green card-carrying resident alien who was born in Brazil. I’ve lived in the United States for over two decades. Yet I’m still held in airports or scrutinized by police because of anti-immigrant laws like SB 1070 in Arizona, which requires authorities to detain immigrants if there’s “reasonable suspicion” that they are not living in the U.S. legally.

The last time that happened, I was catching a flight out of the Tucson airport en route to an academic conference, accompanied by my teenage son. Ironically, I was due to give a talk about how immigration reform, deportation policies, and anti-immigrant laws such as Arizona’s SB 1070 can negatively affect the education of young immigrant children.

I arrived late at the airport and was rushing through security when a Border Patrol officer asked my fellow travelers and me whether we were citizens of the United States. After I explained that I was a resident alien, the officer asked to see my green card, which I had accidentally left at home. Although I had an Arizona driver’s license, birth certificate, marriage license and passport, the officer detained me for not carrying my green card.

She lined me up against a wall with about 20 other travelers — mostly brown-skinned people who were not carrying the required documents. She paced in front of me and yelled that I was breaking the law for not having the right documentation, and that I would suffer the consequences of my actions.

I asked the officer to use my driver’s license information to verify my legal status. She said that although she could have done so quickly, through a phone call, she wanted to make an example out of me. And so she stood there, smirking. She released me several hours later; I missed my flight and my talk.

My experience was painful, but it could have been far worse. Unlike the 11 million undocumented migrants in the United States who currently risk detention or deportation, I don’t have to worry about being separated from my family. Yet my teenage son was terrified by the way the Border Patrol agent treated me and others. He lost some of his respect for institutional authority, an unfortunate outcome for a child who is becoming a voting citizen of this country.

While my son — as a United States citizen, born to an academic — has a dramatically different life than the unaccompanied children heading to America, I’m concerned that they’re all part of a generation that will grow up resentful of the United States and its treatment of immigrants." - Ana C. Iddings, Ph.D., July 1, 2014.