I begin this post with a link to an Op-Ed piece by New York Times writer Nicholas Kristoff. It is an excellent piece, as are most of his, very thought-provoking about the parallels between refugees from the Nazis, notably the family of Anne Frank, and today’s tragic situation with refugees from the Middle East. I cannot copy it in its entirety here, but please do take a few minutes to check it out.
At the beginning of his presidential bid, Trump was noted, and applauded by some, for his stance on immigration and his intention to ban Muslims from entering the country, to build a wall to eliminate immigration from Mexico, and also his plan to deport all immigrants. In recent weeks, since winning the GOP nomination and changing his team of handlers, he has altered his stance somewhat. Now, as best I can tell after reading several of his speeches (apparently I am not alone in my struggle to figure out exactly what he is saying, based on this NBC News headline: Immigration Wonks Struggle to Decipher Trump’s New Position), he still plans to deport the Mexican immigrants, but then he will let them back into the country. “If somebody wants to go legalization route, what they’ll do is they’ll go, leave the country, hopefully come back in and then we can talk.”
First, there is no clarity as to which immigrants he is talking about, however let us assume he is talking about all ‘undocumented’ immigrants. First, if you get deported from a country where you are working, trying to keep your family safe and fed, trying to assimilate into the culture, and then suddenly you are expelled from the country, are you really likely to want to come back? Perhaps it is just my stubborn streak, but I would not have any desire to return to a nation that made it clear I was not wanted. Now, in the case of Mexican immigrants, coming back might at least be an option, but in the case of our refugees from the Middle East, mostly Syria, Pakistan and Iraq, to deport them, to send them back to their country of origin, would in many cases be a death sentence.
Even Mike Pence, Trump’s running mate, has no idea what Trump really means, as he made clear on Sunday morning: “There will be no path to legalization and no path to citizenship. Donald Trump will articulate what we do with the people who are here.” Trump will “articulate”? That would be novel. Since numerous analysts are still trying to decipher Trump’s new platform on immigration without much success, I will leave that one to the experts for now. One comment I found interesting and humorous, though, bears repeating: “Your error was in assuming this campaign acknowledged the accepted meaning of words.” Quite so.
However, the issue of immigration is a serious one that must be considered with both compassion and intellect, rather than simply tossing out nonsensical statements. For the moment, I narrow the focus of this conversation to concentrate only on refugees from the war-torn areas on the other side of the globe. Half of the 23 million population of Syria have been forced from their homes, with four million becoming refugees in other countries, the rest still in Syria, homeless and living in perpetual danger. 2.6 million Iraqis have been displaced by Daesh. 1.5 million people have been displaced in South Sudan since fighting there resumed at the end of 2013. Most Syrian refugees who fled to Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan in 2011 and 2012, believed the war in Syria would soon be over and they could return. It is only in the last year or two that they have realized this is not going to happen and they must seek permanent sanctuary elsewhere. Such wars are currently being waged in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, south-east Turkey, Yemen, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and north-east Nigeria.
The mass flight of people will go on as long as the wars in Syria and Iraq continue. Europe is in the throes of a true refugee crisis with nowhere left for them to go, and the EU-Turkey deal is likely to fall apart at any time. That means that the U.S. is going to have to step up to the plate. The politicians and political candidates speak of “paths to citizenship”, detention camps, jobs, healthcare and other courses of action once they are in this country, all of which are important and necessary. But this does not address the issue of how best to help the people who seek refuge now … today.
Last year, President Obama vowed to admit 10,000 Syrian refugees — a tiny number, just one-fifth of one percent of the total. At about the same time, governors of some 31 states declared that Syrian refugees are not welcome in their states. Not coincidentally, all but one of those 31 governors are republicans. This has become a partisan issue, and it should not be. It should be a humanitarian issue! We do not live in a vacuum, but rather are a part of a global society. At present, we have fallen woefully short of even that modest commitment and have admitted only about 13% of the 10,000. Why? Reasons include bureaucratic red tape, coupled with fears of terrorism, fiery campaign rhetoric and attempts by Congress to obstruct the process. Lives are at stake, hundreds of thousands of lives, and we are allowing a nearly non-existent threat to turn these people away? Those who would tell us that every Muslim is a threat to our national security are the ones who should be deported to Syria! Where is common sense? Where is logic and reason?
During World War II, the U.S. turned away thousands of Jewish refugees, the majority of whom subsequently died as a result of the Holocaust. Do we really want a repeat of that on our national conscience this century? Or will we remember the words that I so often quote, the words that are engraved on the Statue of Liberty: “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. To spread the light of liberty world-wide for every land.”
Again, I strongly urge you to read Mr. Kristoff’s piece and … as always … think about it.