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Friday, June 07, 2024


by Indran Amirthanayagam

President Biden announced an executive order on Tuesday to essentially block asylum at the southern border, a major shift in how the United States has historically handled claims for protection. The move, a suspension of longtime guarantees that give anyone who steps onto U.S. soil the right to seek a safe haven, is intended to deter illegal border crossings, an issue that has weighed on Mr. Biden’s political fortunes as he heads into the November presidential election… Immigration advocates have said the changes, taken together, amount to a virtual suspension of the asylum system for people crossing the border. The Biden administration “is eliminating key protections to prevent refugees from being returned to harm through imposition of this ‘shout test,’” said Robyn Barnard, a lawyer at Human Rights First. “It will be a recipe for disaster and certainly result in refugees being sent to danger or worse death.” —The New York Times, June 4, 2024

The fortress, the wall, thou shalt
not enter these rolling hills and 
grasslands where bison and 
Natives once roamed. You will 

not drink at the rancher’s 
trough or sleep in the sanctuary 
city’s single residency hotel. You 
will not get bussed to the liberal

East where a temporary home
waits until shelter services stop 
at sixty days and you find
yourself on the proverbial street

unless you have relatives willing 
to keep you off the public books. 
This is no grand illusion, no 
welcome, but you have left 

your local gangs to find 
a safer and more fitting union, 
turned into a red and blue 
wall. Incredible failure 

of the big heart to open, 
to say we will find a way 
to allow the Dream free again 
as in the old poems and movies 

that led our fathers and mothers 
to make the trek west and east, 
north and south. Goodbye 
to all that jazz America. Goodbye.

Indran Amirthanayagam is the translator of Origami: Selected Poems of Manuel Ulacia (Dialogos Books). Mad Hat Press has just published his love song to Haiti: Powèt Nan Pò A (Poet of the Port). Ten Thousand Steps Against the Tyrant (BroadstoneBooks) is a collection of Indran's poems. Recently published is Blue Window (Ventana Azul), translated by Jennifer Rathbun. (Dialogos Books). In 2020, Indran produced a “world" record by publishing three new poetry books written in three languages: The Migrant States (Hanging Loose Press, New York), Sur l'île nostalgique (L’Harmattan, Paris) and Lírica a tiempo (Mesa Redonda, Lima). He edits The Beltway Poetry Quarterly and helps curate Ablucionistas. He hosts the Poetry Channel on YouTube and publishes poetry books with Sara Cahill Marron at Beltway Editions.