There is a lot to like about Tram Nguyen’s book, We Are All Suspects Now: Untold Stories from Immigrant Communities after 9/11, and there is plenty not to like. Nguyen writes an intimate book about the plight of immigrants, especially illegal immigrants, in post-9/11 America. The maltreatment of illegal immigrants at the hands of the U.S. government is revealed in painful personal testimonies and vivid profiles.
Nguyen covers a lot of ground in her svelte volume: arrest and disappearance of illegal immigrants, harassment of asylum seekers, special registration for young Muslim men, racial profiling, the militarization of the border, and those fleeing the United States for safer pastures.
Naturally, most of the victims are Muslims. They have borne the brunt of the government’s war on terrorism given the fact that the 9/11 attacks were carried out by Muslims in the name Islam, even though most Muslims had nothing to do with it. Hysteria ruled the day. And it still does. Nguyen treats this and other issues well with her straightforward writing.
Nevertheless, while reading the book, I sensed an undercurrent of contempt for the sovereignty of the United States. The problem with Nguyen is that she’s a bleeding heart; and what goes unsaid is that she is also a supporter of open borders. She treats those who oppose this as, well, hicks. Take, for example, her treatment of Chris Simcox, whose only concern is to defend America’s borders from illegal immigrants and criminal gangs who smuggle drugs. Not a violent fellow at all, but Nguyen treats Simcox like a racist and a right-wing kook, even though a majority of Americans support his opinion.
Another thing I dislike about Nguyen’s book is that she conflates both illegal immigration and terrorism into one issue, when, in many cases, they are mutually exclusive. In her mind if an illegal immigrant (or, in her parlance, “undocumented’) is cleared of any links to terrorism, they should be simply released. This is wrongheaded and muddled thinking. Just because an illegal immigrant doesn’t have a connection to terrorism he or she does not cease to be illegal!
Illegal immigrants may not be violent criminals like murderers and rapists, but they are lawbreakers; people who skirted the law to get to this country illegally. Nguyen shamelessly treats them as victims. This is a slap to the face of all those legal immigrants who followed the law and patiently waited their turn. Of course, they are nowhere to be found in her book.
This being said, I don’t want to thought of as some cold-hearted idealists. I’m a realist and pragmatic. I do believe that the United States needs a sensible policy on immigration, but opening the borders is not the answer.