Since our nation’s formation, refugees have arrived here, fleeing religious intolerance, ethnic persecution, violent civil wars, famine and intolerable poverty. Each successive wave of such immigrants were welcomed by their own countryman who had arrived before them; but, they were generally mistrusted and ostracized by other groups who sensed competition within the labor pool. In the end, however, each generation of immigrants made great contributions to America.
More recently, however, the term “sealing our southern border” has become racist code, intermixed with ethnic depravity. Presidential candidate Donald Trump has raised the stakes even higher with his comment about Mexican undocumented immigrants: “They’re (Mexico) sending people that have lots of problems…they’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.” And each of the other Republican contenders has followed his line of immigrant-bashing to varying degrees. That’s because such divisive commentary seems to appeal to the Party’s conservative political base.
Why is all the commotion about the southern border, but not about the even longer one–to our north? Why attack the Mexicans, and not the Chinese, other Asians, Canadians, Europeans, etc? You see: wealthy Chinese can buy Permanent Residency status (an EB-5 Visa) with $1 million dollars to invest; other Asians often possess highly-coveted technical skills; and Canadians and Europeans look “like us”, and generally share our societal values.
Consider this: if a boat were to come ashore in South Florida with a Cuban, a Haitian and a Mexican, the Haitian and Mexican would be deported back home. The Cuban, however, would be allowed to stay, thanks to the Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966. And then, the Cuban could acquire Permanent Residency status within just one year, and be fast-tracked to Citizenship. So, why are Cuban immigrants afforded special treatment? That’s because the South Florida Cuban-American community tends to vote Republican in this all-important “swing state”. But, why don’t we afford the same immigration opportunities to all immigrants?
With regard to the current refugee crisis that is overwhelming Europe, America must step-up, provide significant funding to the international organizations that are caring for those seeking asylum, and accept a substantial portion of the multitudes into this country. During the 1970s, after the War in Vietnam, we resettled Cambodians, Laotians and Vietnamese onto our Northern Plains. And during the 1980s, Miami (alone) accepted some 120,000 refugees from Mariel, Cuba. What stands in our way this time?
Besides the anti-Mexican tirades, the anti-Islam nonsense–Republican-controlled states trying to outlaw non-existent Sharia Laws, referring to everything Islamic as being “Islamo-(something or other)”–also seems to appeal to their “Right”-Wing political base. Such divisiveness merely leads to our self-isolation. But right now, political posturing should not be what counts: doing the right thing, doing what’s needed, doing what’s right should be!
America, if we do not step-up and provide the financial support and acceptance to the refugees trying to reach Europe, in rickety boats and treacherous land routes, we ought to just send Lady Liberty back to France. The inscription, with Emma Lazarus’ poem at its base, says it all: “Give me your tired, your poor, (y)our huddled masses, yearning to be set free…”
NOTE: Two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Nicholas Kristof wrote the linked column on the current Syrian Refugee Crisis, in the NY Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/06/opinion/sunday/nicholas-kristof-refugees-who-could-be-us.html.