“We are one, our cause is one, and we must help each other if we are to succeed.”
— Frederick Douglass
Ripping refugee children from their parents arms at the border and locking them in cages isn’t American. It isn’t Christian. In fact, it runs counter to the most basic standards of humanity and decency espoused by every major and minor religion the world over.
Even the shameful and ultimately unconstitutional WWII policy of interning Japanese Americans at least kept their families together when our government locked them behind barbed wire.
But this is something we have not seen before.
Our own government’s systematic abuse of refugee children on our border is a new low. Sadly though, it is just the latest in the test-marketing of Donald Trump’s brand of immigrant scapegoating. Put crying kids in cages and see how it plays with the base… Call them an “infestation,” and see how the crowd responds… See if anyone really cares… Get away with it, and you are one step closer to treating them as vermin.
The degeneration from our traditional American values of justice, fairness, and compassion for strangers — continues step by step. And for many of us, it merely washes across our consciousness along with sports shows, talking heads, MTV, and the other 871 cable entertainment channels on our television sets.
The biggest threat to our American freedom is not dictatorship; it is our own public passivity — an acceptance of cruelty and institutional violence practiced with our permission.
As Fintan O’Toole recently wrote in the Irish Times, “Fascism doesn’t arise suddenly in an existing democracy. It is not easy to get people to give up their ideas of freedom and civility. You have to do trial runs that, if they are done well, serve two purposes. They get people used to something they may initially recoil from; and they allow you to refine and calibrate. This is what is happening now and we would be fools not to see it.”
The American Dream has attracted millions to our shores since our founding. Without immigration, there would be no American Dream and there would be no American future — only an American past.
We can live in fear, or we can act in hope.
Contrary to the falsehood that immigrants take our jobs, the truth is immigration makes our country and our economy stronger. In every generation, America has been strengthened by the arrival to our shores of New Americans — new workers, new consumers, new thinkers, new business starters, and new innovators. Leading economists conclude – ironically – that one of the only ways President Trump could deliver the 3% economic growth he has promised would be to liberalize our immigration system.
Instead, he stuffs for-profit internment camps with as many Spanish-speaking, brown-skinned people as his national dragnet can capture — notwithstanding the fact that net immigration from Mexico last year was less than zero.
The truth is, New American Immigrants have founded 40% of today’s Fortune 500 companies —creating millions of jobs. Those who have escaped death gangs and collapsing nation-states understand (more than most) that public safety and Rule of Law are two of the most fundamental goods of our free society. New American immigrants work hard, love their families, and believe passionately in the goodness and potential of our country. In fact, if you ever want your faith in America restored, talk to someone who has risked her life to come here. You will find no greater love of country.
So, are these really the families we want to lock up in prison camps? Does any family — or any child, anywhere — ever deserve to be put in an internment camp? What does any of this have to do with making America great, or good? When did we become so mastered by fear that we could be convinced a starving refugee child is a threat to our national security?
Yes, this is an ugly chapter in our American story, but it is not the last chapter.
Another day is fast approaching.
For if you want to know where our nation is headed, talk to her young people under 25. You won’t find many immigrant-bashers among them. In fact, young Americans overwhelmingly believe our diversity is one of our greatest strengths. Our compassion is another. They believe we should be more connected to the larger world, not less. They believe in building bridges, not walls. And, most importantly, young Americans believe that we should practice kindness toward refugee people — Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, Jewish alike.
So, fear not America. There is a goodness within us that cannot be eclipsed for long. Withstand the temporary delusion. And hold tight to the values which make us both a good and a great nation.
For this, We Believe — the enduring symbol of our nation is not the barbed-wire fence; it is the Statue of Liberty.