It is perhaps apocryphal that Franklin Delano Roosevelt addressed a convention of the Daughters of the American Revolution as, "My fellow immigrants."

A more accurate quote taken from FDR's speech is: "Remember, remember always that all of us, and you and I especially, are descended from immigrants and revolutionists." The point is the same, although the corrected quotation is more polite.


It is also true that when it was proposed that the world famous singer Marian Anderson should sing in Constitution Hall, the meeting place of the DAR, the application was rejected on account of her race. She was the granddaughter of a man who had been a slave. As a result of the ensuing furor, thousands of DAR members, including First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, resigned from the organization. In her letter to the DAR, she wrote, "I am in complete disagreement with the attitude taken in refusing Constitution Hall to a great artist ... You had an opportunity to lead in an enlightened way and it seems to me that your organization has failed." Later the DAR relented and she sang more than once in the Constitution Hall venue.

When my father's grandparents emigrated from Ireland in the 19th Century they also were part of a group subject to discrimination. The sign "No Irish need apply" was often posted when businesses were hiring. And in my lifetime, Catholic officers in the Army faced a glass ceiling based on religion rather than race. I remember the quiet pride among Catholics in the military when Gen. J. Lawton Collins finally became the first Catholic Army Chief of Staff in 1949. A decade later, John F. Kennedy broke another and more prominent glass ceiling, and Barack Obama yet another. But more progress is needed.

In this nation of immigrants it was indeed discouraging when our board of commissioners wrote a letter opposing the temporary housing of children who were refugees from civil strife in Central America in an unused Army Reserve Center. The spurious specter of imported diseases was raised in this letter. But as it happens, the childhood vaccination rates in those countries are higher than our domestic rate. And even if some children are sick, do we turn our back on their care and comfort? These commissioners should open their next meeting with the biblical quote: "Suffer little children to come unto me, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." Or in the words of a bumper sticker: "What would Jesus do?"

The legislation that makes it difficult to return refugee children to Central America (but not to Mexico) is the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008, signed into law by George W. Bush. Our border patrol is at an all-time peak. Nearly 2 million uninvited immigrants have been removed or have returned voluntarily during the Obama administration, the highest numbers of any president. Still, Republicans orate about more border security, yet they sit on the bills that provide the necessary funding.

The Immigration Reform Bill passed by the Senate and pigeonholed by House Speaker John Boehner has money in it for more border enforcement. So does the $3.7 billion asked for by the administration to cope with the current refugee children crisis. If Republicans want more border enforcement, they have to come up with the money to pay for it. If they want to return some of the refugee children to Central America, they need to provide funding for more judges.

Nationally, Republicans are quick to blame the president but slow to fund the necessary solutions. They would rather have the problem so that they can complain about it.

John Culleton writes from Eldersburg. His column appears every second Tuesday.

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