When I restarted this blog, I decided to focus on geography, and generally steer clear of either really personal posts or the political issues of the day. But sometimes that distinction doesn’t really hold up. The US’s treatment of people who were brought here as children is an example: it’s just the sort of current-politics issue I didn’t want to be talking about here, but it’s also somewhat on topic and so intensely personal for me that I can’t leave it alone.
I’ll start with some biographical information for context. I was born in Turkey, but when I was very young the country went through a period of political violence that my parents very reasonably decided that we should get away from. Because my great-grandfather had shrewdly taken advantage of the brief period when İstanbul was colonised, we had EU citizenship, so we were able to move to Britain as legal, documented, above-board immigrants. Thus my lifetime of being the most privileged sort of immigrant began before I could even speak in sentences.
But even before I had any broader understanding of privilege, it was obvious to me that this legal permission was a product of pure luck: that my ancestors had moved to the capital before the Ottoman Empire fell, which colonial power had happened to be giving out citizenships, that we were one of İstanbul’s ethnic minorities so they were willing to admit us, that the aftermath of WW2 led to a regularising of our odd status and not its abolition, and that the eventual formation of the EU gave us many more options than great-grandpa could have foreseen. Without all of those things working together, I suppose we could have tried applying for asylum, but we weren’t being specifically singled out for our politics or ethnicity, so I doubt we’d have been accepted. I could very well have ended up just like today’s DACA recipients: brought into a country without the right stamps and documents, because all other options were worse, when I was far too young to be considered responsible for that choice.
Just like the DACA recipients, I was young enough when we left Turkey that Britain was the only home I had known, my culture growing up was more British than anything else, and English was the only language I grew up competent in. When I hear about these people getting deported, I can’t help but to imagine how the equivalent would have turned out. If instead of having all the layers of privilege I benefit from I’d been picked up during university and deported to a country where I could barely communicate, and the only person I really knew was my elderly and increasingly infirm grandmother. Only to really complete the analogy for Honduras, El Salvador or the more drug war ravaged parts of Mexico it would have to have been a parallel-universe version of Turkey that had stayed stuck in the chaos of 1979 instead of having gradually become more stable and less poor.
I can’t think about DACA without thinking about how awful that situation would have been for me, and how I’ve only ever been a few strokes of luck away from it. So when I encounter a person who supports deporting erstwhile DACA recipients, I know that I don’t merely disagree with them: I can’t trust them, and I can’t have a polite conversation with them. When people tell me that as a legal immigrant I should support punishing those who ‘jump the queue’ (seriously, this is a thing I am told somewhat regularly) I laugh in their faces because I know how flimsy that “legal immigrant” status is. And watching a political party close ranks to punish people who moved here as children is reason enough on its own to forever oppose that party.
Altogether I take a much more radical view of borders and immigration: I hold that the use of borders to determine who gets to live where is fundamentally illegitimate and immoral. But you don’t have to follow me all the way there to see that deporting people from the only home they have ever known is deeply inhuman and must end immediately.