Crossing Over

Some people hate the Trump administration so much, they say they’ll move to Canada. It’s not hard to do, a drunken group of American revellers once floated down to Canada by mistake. At last year’s annual Port Huron Float Down, the winds were so strong it pushed partiers  down the St. Clair river, stranding them in Canadian waters without documentation, prompting the Coast Guard to come to their rescue.

America’s crackdown on illegal immigrants is getting a number of people hot under the collar. Not that millions are fleeing in droves, but there’s certainly been an uptick in illegal immigrants crossing over the US border into Canada on foot. It’s not as easy as floating down a river by mistake, and no one will gun you down the way they do down Mexico way, but it can still be hazardous to one’s health.  In Northern Minnesota, Mavis Otutseye, a Ghanaian woman, was found frozen to death in a field half a mile away from a Canadian border town. Authorities believe she may have been trying to cross over illegally. When they learned she had plans to visit her daughter in Toronto who’d just given birth, it became the biggest human interest story of the week, and the finger pointing began. Death does that.

They say never blame the victim. Some figurehead with a higher bureaucratic function must be held responsible for pushing a woman to trek across the US border, and succumb to hypothermia barely a mile away from a Canadian border town. Blame Trump for cracking down on illegal immigrants the way he and his administration is doing. Blame Trudeau for emphasizing Canada’s willingness to shelter those seeking asylum the way he did and is still doing.

To the living, there’s nothing worse than death. By dying, one is ultimately absolved of any and all awful things one has done in life.  The dead attain absolution simply by having taken on the most extreme of punishments. In the game of consequences, death is the utmost trump card. Passing on is the ultimate pass.

We are conditioned to speak well of the dead. It’s not just  “the departed,” it’s “the dearly departed.” There is an unspoken rule that to cast aspersions at a funeral is anathema. The thought of being remembered in anything other than a positive light causes those of us who are left behind to be this way; we all crave acceptance, even after death. So we remember the dead well, and hope we’ll be given the same treatment when our time comes.

Swindled the elderly? Pass. Raging alcoholic? Pass. Had multiple affairs, a cadre of illegitimate children, was a rumored bigamist? Pass. Illegal immigrant? Pass. To still be vilified even after death, a person would have had to have committed something extremely egregious. Like ethnic cleansing.  Or herding people into gas chambers. Here lies Jeffrey Dahmer. He ate people. Whoops, crossed the line, Jeff. No pass for you.

Further reports revealed Mavis Otuteye had overstayed her visitor’s visa, continuing to live in Delaware after her visa expired in 2006. If it’s true that she intended to cross over into Canada, and apply for refugee status, then it’s clear that she had every intention of bucking the system, having already bucked it once. No matter how you look at it, staying in Delaware for several years does not a refugee make, country of birth aside.

Does one still get to be a victim if the circumstances are of one’s own making? Let’s not sugarcoat things. If this really was an attempt to get into Canada illegally, then the Ghanaian woman’s actions made a mockery of  refugees who apply for asylum legitimately. It’s an insult to would-be immigrants who follow the prescribed process – no matter how long it takes, and how much it costs – when others  try to jump the line and circumvent the law. Her death was a tragedy, and I am truly sorry that she died the way she did. Most who are caught are fortunate, and simply get deported for their trouble. Some however, pay the ultimate price.

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