Op-Ed

If we still believe in American values, we must show compassion to immigrants

A woman holds up a sign that reads "Defend DACA Defend TPS" during a rally supporting Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, outside the White House in Washington, Monday, Sept. 4, 2017. TPS stands for "Temporary Protected Status." A plan President Donald Trump is expected to announce Tuesday for young immigrants brought to the country illegally as children was embraced by some top Republicans on Monday and denounced by others as the beginning of a "civil war" within the party.
A woman holds up a sign that reads "Defend DACA Defend TPS" during a rally supporting Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, outside the White House in Washington, Monday, Sept. 4, 2017. TPS stands for "Temporary Protected Status." A plan President Donald Trump is expected to announce Tuesday for young immigrants brought to the country illegally as children was embraced by some top Republicans on Monday and denounced by others as the beginning of a "civil war" within the party. AP

The Director of Homeland Security, Kirstjen M. Nielsen, announced on Jan. 8, 2018 the end of Temporary Protected Status for an estimated 200,000 Salvadoran refugees who fled their homes and came here following devastating earthquakes in 2001. The order, effective Sept. 19, 2019, requires Salvadoran refugees, many of whom have grown up here, to either return to El Salvador, or find another way to legally stay. This follows a similar order in November 2017 rescinding deportation protection granted to 60,000 Haitians after an earthquake there in 2010.

President Trump announced several months ago that he would end the Deferred Action for Child Arrivals, or DACA program, by which over 700,000 children illegally brought here may legally stay. The order would phase in over the next couple of years, requiring many of those children to leave, ending a childhood growing up in America.

One side of our political spectrum calls for a federal crackdown on cities that shelter immigrants residing here illegally. Many would also like to limit or end family-based immigration, by which otherwise illegal migrants can enter the country legally when sponsored by a relative already here.

And then there’s the rallying cry to build that wall and make Mexico pay for it.

I’m not going to argue the legality or illegality of any of this, but will venture a comment on the morality.

First, for perspective, consider Pew Research Center estimates that 11 million immigrants live here illegally, which would amount to about three to four percent of our population. An estimated 8 million, 73 percent, work and pay taxes, contributing $13 billion in 2010.

One politician in favor of “deporting illegals” recently claimed that the fact that the Temporary Protected Status for Salvadorans had gone on 17 years was proof that our immigration system was broken. I disagree. The fact that we’ve allowed Salvadorans to stay here 17 years is proof that we can be a compassionate country that often acts on our Christian, Jewish, Muslim and other faith-based values.

The fact that we’ve allowed children brought here in violation of immigration rules to stay and grow up American is evidence that we still hold dear the values Lady Liberty shines a light on from New York harbor.

The fact that many cities and churches across the country would dare to shelter immigrants who came here against federal or state rules shows that some of us still care enough about our religious beliefs to extend them to the least of His children staring us in the face.

Why this call to deport immigrants, especially those from poorer countries whom our top elected official has, in uncharitable terms, decried as not worthy of our charity? Is it because we don’t have the resources to help our brothers and sisters in need? Is it because our faiths don’t call us to assist fellow men, women, and children experiencing difficult circumstances? No, the best I can figure is that one group of our leadership has decided it’s because We’re Americans and They’re Not.

How do I justify the country I love telling people in need of help through no fault of their own, that they aren’t “good” enough, rich enough, white enough, or weren’t born in the right place, and therefore we don’t want them? Because we’re Americans and they’re not?

Denis DuBay lives in Cary.

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