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The celebration of Independence Day is overshadowed a bit by the knowledge that there are human lives being treated no better than cattle at America's southern border. | Image: Andrew Neel

Last year, the cover of our Independence Day issue featured a young migrant boy watching the fireworks on the Art Museum steps — from inside a U.S. Border Patrol cage. 

It was one we crafted by design to remind us all as we shove down copious amounts of beer and burgers over the next few days that there are children looking for the same freedom at our southern border. It was a cover I hoped would be a topic far removed from public discourse by the time this year’s issue came around, and that another reminder wouldn’t have to be sent out.

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Philadelphia Weekly Independence Day cover, 2018. | Illustration: Kimberly Neal-Krauss

This year, as you can see, we chilled (literally) with the rhetoric on the cover, but I’m using this space as a reminder that since a year has passed, not much has changed. In fact, according to news reports just this week, it’s gotten worse. 

Let me start out by saying that I understand that there are checks and balances to entering the country and ultimately becoming a naturalized citizen. I understand and respect those laws. That’s not what I’m referring to. I’m referring to the reported inhumane treatment of people fleeing danger and poverty in their home counties making the dangerous trek — albeit, illegally — to the U.S., only to be treated like herds of cattle once they arrive. 

Many are children ripped from mothers and sent to other camps, chastised and harassed by border patrol agents whose job it is to keep them safe. However, on Tuesday morning, I awoke to the news that congressional leaders went to these camps and were regaled with alleged stories of border patrol personnel denying people water, telling them if they’re thirsty to “drink from the toilet.” This a direct quote from New York congressional representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. 

It was sickening and sad that this is still happening in a country that’s supposed to set the standard for how to treat human beings regardless of immigration status. 

The images of the conditions inside these camps were bleak: caged warehouses with concrete flooring and only foil blankets for warmth. Yet this isn’t as maddening as the horde of MAGA derelicts outside the camp with signs that read, “Mexico: We Don’t Want Your Trash” or “Your Death Is Not My Problem.” 

This is the greeting for detainees at the border? On the week we, as Americans, are supposed to be celebrating “liberty and justice for all?” Bullshit. 

One of my favorite pastimes is to strike up conversation with a neighbor of mine named Ron. Ron is a Trump supporter and raging right-winger but a genuinely good guy. I routinely bounce stories we’re working on off of him because he’s always great (at times) for allowing me to see both sides of the issue. 

I saw him over the weekend. First, we complained about the weather, the trash on the street and the “zombies,” as Ron affectionately calls the nearby drug users who flow downstream from Kensington onto our block. Then, we chatted about Donald Trump’s plans for a Kim Jong Un-like parade down Pennsylvania Ave. 

I raised the notion that instead of a parade at both of our expenses as federal taxpayers, wouldn’t doing something else with that money make more sense? Ron agreed but said simply, “Yeah, we should be using it to build a wall and keep [those] Mexicans out.” 

It was a line that served as a stark reminder that people who think like Ron can’t look past nationality. In fact, many of the people trying to cross the border come from deeper pockets of South America, actively trying to flee many different situations. It’s hard for Ron and many of his fellow immigration skeptics to see that these are people and humans just like him. Instead of getting to taste the fleeting relaxation the annual July 4 holiday provides, many will be stuck inside cages until a processing date. 

Like milk past its expiration date, thrown out, even though it’s perfectly fine.

I know this is how many Americans view the crisis at the southern border. I’m saddened that many of us are so enraptured by what the television network we choose to follow tells us to think. 

An 8-year-old migrant child doesn’t know what’s going on. They’re following their parents in search of a better life. For this to be a new year, a fresh Independence Day and still be a hot button topic is a sad reminder of how fucked some of our minds are. 

However, it’s out of sight, out of mind. Let’s just soak up the sun, fire up the grill and pop the top on a cold one from the cooler. 

After all, isn’t this our God-given right as an American? 

TWITTER: @SPRTSWTR

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