What Animals Can Teach Us About Immigration (Essay)

By I. Cruz

I. Cruz is an immigrants rights activist and community organizer in Mississippi.  She also draws things and writes.


When butterflies move from Canada to Mexico or vice versa, there are sanctuaries waiting for them in both countries. Those lucky enough to experience this view claim that the migration of monarchs is beautiful. When ducks fly in a V formation because of weather patterns, the people watching below only comment about the grace in their flight patterns. Sharks move from place to place depending on water temperature so they can have their babies. Fish lay their eggs in freshwater and well, you get the idea: migration is as natural as air.

But humans? We migrate because there is war: because we humans are killing ourselves and each other. We migrate because there is famine and starvation: one group of humans with control is killing off another group. And all over the world, whether humans fly, walk, or take a bus: there are border patrols, tear gasses, walls, traps, arrests. There are no comments about the grace in which humans work to pay off their coyote or about the humility the migrants who survive or aren’t arrested display at the menial jobs they must often do in order to survive when they arrive to any of the many immigration hubs of the world.

Why do I say this? I used to believe that I am an ally to undocumented immigrants because I used to be undocumented myself. But as movements change, my reasons for this support have evolved as well. I met a wise leader of an Aztec dance group in Memphis, Tennessee. He and his group, Danza Azteca Quetzalcoatl said this several times as they blessed our events during the Walk Against Fear (I am paraphrasing it terribly and should’ve written this down):

Todos tenemos el derecho de migrar. Así como los animales van de un lugar a otro en busca de agua y comida, como los animales, nosotros tenemos el derecho de migrar en busca de una vida mejor.

We all have the right to migrate. Just like animals go from place to place seeking water and food. And like animals, we all have the right to migrate to seek a better life.

Granted, I know some people will get angry because I’m comparing immigrants to animals, but I’ve decided ever since I heard these words that for me, this is the best reason why I should support the right of everyone who comes to this country to seek a better life.

In many schools, evolution is taught, and it refers to humans as “animals.” Our frontal lobes are what make us “intelligent” animals, but when it comes to immigration policies and human rights, maybe we should act less “intelligent” and more like the animals we see in nature.

Animals make no qualms about moving from place to place. Movement is part of their very nature. ICE has never attempted to deport any lizards attempting to cross from Mexico to the USA as far as I know. ICE probably doesn’t care how many scorpions end up in their cargo. ICE shouldn’t exist because anyone attempting to cross the desert to enter this country should be treated exactly like the scorpions that can openly walk into this country whenever they please. I’m sure there’s a NAFTA provision that allows this.

Just like George Washington, Obama or Marco Rubio’s families came to this country to seek better lives, so do immigrants all over the world find themselves walking across deserts, riding on overcrowded boats, overstaying visas or crawling through underground tunnels to flee famines, wars, and poverty.

Just as many U.S. Citizens like Eduardo Saverin leave the USA in order to avoid paying taxes seek better lives elsewhere, immigrants all over the world deserve the understanding and compassion of the powers that be at a global level. Immigration is what happens when someone wants to put food on the table for themselves or their children and finds it easier to do this somewhere else. Any DREAMer and her or his family can tell you that.

Animals don’t believe they own nature, the earth or each other. As far as I can tell, animals don’t even care if you identify as LGBT as long as you hunt your own food. There need be no occupiers or one percenters in the animal kingdom, because each species is equally endowed or fucked depending on where they fall on the food web. Animal parents are not criminalized for taking their young to be a better place for better opportunities. Any fish will tell you that they carefully choose the place in which they lay their eggs so their babies could have better chances of surviving.

But I digress. When it comes to immigration, animals show us that migration patterns are a fact of life. It cannot be stopped. Laws cannot do anything about immigration because immigration is as natural as gravity, oxygen, and weather. Any politician who attempted to police gravity would be thought of as a lunatic. I’m starting to believe that politicians who want to make laws about immigration, except humane ones, are lunatics. Persistent souls will and have managed to get through borders, because the circle of life cannot be stopped by fences or unjust laws alone. If I drop a bowling ball on my foot, it will fall and hurt me. It’s a law of nature, just like migration.

Yes, this is a strange argument, but it’s the best one I can think of at the moment. In a world full of hare-brained lunatics politicians who think it’s their business to deny someone their rights because of their sexual orientation, because they came to this country to survive, or because a person has a uterus they didn’t ask for, perhaps only these crazy arguments are the scientific way to advocate for human rights, which include the right for others to mind their own business while people migrate. But who am I kidding? If you’ve read down this far you probably think I’m a crazy hippie who needs to stop writing.

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