Sunday, April 14, 2019

The Stranger Deserves Better

A year ago, I wrote this post about Passover, Easter, and immigration.

Here we are again, but the problem seems to have gotten worse. And by problem, I mean what the president says and does about people who want to escape violence, have a well-founded fear that their political views will get them jailed or killed, or who live in countries where they belong to the wrong social, ethnic or religious group. He speaks about a crisis at the border, but much of crisis is based on decisions he has made, such as separating children from their parents and creating camps that, in any other country, would ignite a firestorm of criticism for human rights violations.

But my main point now, as it was a year ago, is that the president and those who most fervently support him on religious grounds have simply betrayed their beliefs. The Bible is clear about how Christians and Jews should treat those who are strangers or poor or in need in our countries. There's really no debate. Or contradiction. We should all welcome those who are less fortunate or need food or shelter both realistically and metaphorically.

If the president wants to make good on his threat (threat!) to allow immigrants to go to cities where they will be welcomed, then I say let him issue the order. There is nothing behind such an order but contempt, fear and distrust because he's assuming that other Americans see these migrants in the same way that he does: as criminals, gang members, job and benefit thieves, and worse. Somehow, simply by presenting one's self at the border, a person changes from a citizen of another country who wants a better life into a marauding threat.

This is a disgrace. It serves no other purpose than to stoke fear and reprisals. A serious president would ask for Congress to do nothing else for the next two weeks than to get a bill on his desk that will address the immigration issue with a recognition that both sides need to compromise. The great deal maker could go into the room and not come out until there's a bill. But that would require serious ideas and discussions, something that's been sorely lacking in Washington.

Should everyone be let into the country? No. The law says that each case must be heard and that people must provide evidence that they cannot go back to their country. But those who do show cause should be allowed to stay. After all, this country's growth is based on immigration. If we are to sustain our economy, we'll need more workers to do the jobs that Americans can not or will not perform. We're not making enough Americans to grow the economy and without growth we will be in real trouble. Immigrants have always provided this growth. It's time to stop the fear.

It's also time for religious people who support the president to live by the words they pray and to demand that he stop the harmful rhetoric.

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