A woman who sought refuge in a church sanctuary stated simply “I deserve to be free.” She has lived illegally in this country for ten years and has two children who were born here. Her story has stayed with me. I love my freedom. I can say what I want, go where I want and do whatever I wish to do. I have given up nothing. I haven’t in any way “earned” my freedom. I was born in America!
Many people come to this country with just the clothes on their backs, escaping from persecution and starvation. Some of them have walked thousands of miles, braving hostile situations, risking their lives, motivated by the hope for a better life.
All the people in the world, regardless of race, religion or ethnicity, desire four basic principles to be present in their lives: Freedom, Justice, Opportunity and Security.
In this country we proclaim “All people are created equal!” Our ancestors who arrived at these shores many years ago didn’t have “green cards.” They came to escape persecution, often at great cost and sacrifice, braving months at sea in wooden boats. They felt that in risking their lives they had earned the right to be here.
Controlling immigration has presented a dilemma to the leaders of our government for many years. As the population expanded we have sought to establish laws to bring order to our lives. We have drawn a line defining our borders. We require those who cross the line to obtain permission and carry a card which states their purpose in coming here. Are you here to visit, to work, for education or medical treatment? Also recorded is a designated time for residing here.
Much has happened to confuse the issue. As the numbers of people seeking asylum increased, so did the need for more land. We drove Native Americans into the desert and took over their hunting grounds. To accommodate the rapid growth we imported thousands of black African slaves to work on plantations. Later we brought in Chinese labor to help build railroads. We welcomed Mexicans who came illegally. If workers were undocumented they could be, and were, exploited. Children worked alongside adults. They were forced to accept long hours, unsafe working conditions and uncomfortable lodging arrangements.
As we contemplate the future we must ask ourselves what are our core values as individuals and as citizens. While there is no tidy solution to the immigration issue, we can do better. We are not “above the fray.” We are at the heart of it! “We are the government. The government is us!” With freedom comes responsibility. The lives of these refugees are in our hands.
What complicates the issue is that the origin of the problem is incubated in other countries. The solution to the problem is not in our purview. To some extent we “are” complicit in what is happening. Guns, ammunition and bombs made in the United States are being used in causing death and devastation to thousands of civilians. There has been some effort to provide humanitarian aid, food and medicine to alleviate the suffering. In some cases we have joined with other Democratic nations to bring pressure with trade and sanctions to authoritarian governments. Ideally, a “safe haven” should be provided for those at risk.
If we wish to grow and prosper we must find the will to confront this reality, knowing the choices we make will be subject to controversy. We must seek representation in government that will pursue truth and justice. We need to improve our own game if we hope to be an influence for good in the world.