Our neighbor George recently returned from a trip to the New York harbor and, after seeing the Statue of Liberty, commented on the words “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”
You don’t hear these words much anymore. Immigration, for some countries in Europe and especially our own nation, is persona non grata. You may be tired and poor and want to breathe fresh air but we don’t want you here!
George added that he believes that the words on the Statue are still relevant today. We must find a way! He went on to say that he liked the comment of columnist W. James Antle III, who wrote “Americans should not have to choose between the ‘exaggerated fears’ of immigration promoted by Trump and the ‘happy talk’ of Democrats that ignores ‘inconvenient truths.’”
A conservative commentator reminded us that the president was elected primarily to build a wall and keep the illegals out. But we need, said George, to move beyond presidential rhetoric (which keeps changing) and find a humane solution to this humanitarian crisis. I responded when you begin to talk about immigration in our culture today it reminds me of the saying “fools rush in where angels fear to tread.”
That may be true, he said, but immigration is also a faith issue for me. It is important to ask the question what does my faith in God say to me about this issue? The Hebrew Scriptures speak about “and do no wrong or violence to the alien, the orphan and the widow.” (Jeremiah 22.3).
The Christian Scriptures remind us that Jesus and his family had to flee for their lives because of violent threats and became themselves refugees. Jesus got himself in trouble with the authorities because he was always breaking down artificial walls and boundaries that the religious leaders had established to keep good people away from bad people.
First let’s be honest with the facts. The Administration likes to promote “fake news” about crime or jobs. Unbiased research has shown that un-documented immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than native-born citizens, but the president keeps coming up with difference figures which even he cannot document.
Second, the Wall Street Journal reported that, “Today there are more jobs available than there are unemployed people.” Immigrants provide needed labor in areas like hospitality, manufacturing, construction and also like repair of roofs and landscaping.
The hospitality industry had 844,000 unfilled positions in April, a record high according to the Labor Department. Over 800,000 jobs are open in the truck & transportation business.
Due to the Administration’s policy in Maryland we cannot find enough laborers to pick crabs. Since the unemployment rate has dropped a number of employers are having a difficult time finding workers. Yes, our nation is changing and will continue to change. It has for over 240 years. Our nation is becoming a majority-minority nation. Figures show that there are more children of color than children who are white under the age of 12.
But through the years our people have learned how to adjust and live with change and in fact our nation has become even stronger and greater. Even evangelistic conservative leader Franklin Graham called the separation of families “terrible “ and “disgraceful.” What’s happening to the caged children is immoral.
Our president’s own wife and daughter expressed dismay over seeing children separated from their parents and locked in chain link fence enclosures. A New York writer asked “when did caging kids become the art of the deal?” Theunis Bates, writer, said “research shows that such a trauma floods a child’s developing brain with stress hormones, killing off neurons and causing lasting problems with trust , decision making and impulse control.”
When change did come some wondered if it was because of a “heart-warming experience” or simply political pressure. The attorney general made it very clear that breaking up families was seen as a possible deterrent. Taking children away from their parents will stop them from coming. At the same time they apparently did not have any infrastructure, policy or plan if this did not work.
Others have suggested that putting children at risk might simply be a ploy to make the loyal opposition heed to other immigration demands. He has even gone so far as to indicate that asylum seekers will not be granted asylum even if they are fearing violence from gangs in their own countries.
“The only future for my son in El Salvador was to become a gang member. I don’t want to wake up one day and see him dead on the street.” (Patricia de Jesus’ Flores - mother). Some have raised the question of whether the administration really wants a solution or if the issue is the goal.
A final thought from George — you own the White House, the House and the Senate so get your act together and in a compassionate moment do something good!
After saying all of this we need to admit we have an immigration crisis. Some have said if you don’t have borders you don’ t have a nation. Others have argued that we can enforce good immigration laws while at the same time do it in a humane way. If the only way forward is to build a wall why not give the President his wall?
Then we reunite children with their parents. Then we work on a pathway to citizenship for DACA immigrants. Then we deal with millions of undocumented people who have been in our nation for years without committing crimes and are serving our nation in positive ways while at the same time redesigning the purpose of ICE. Then we recognize that it is not a crime to seek asylum and instead of simply turning away people for no reason we use our existing laws and judges to decide who has merit and who should be denied.
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Let the dialogue continue. I only ask that you think on these things.