February 1, 2017
Our new President signed executive orders to move forward with the construction of an estimated $15 billion dollar wall along the US/Mexican border and to strengthen focus on deportation. In addition, the President has signed into law an immediate 30 day ban and suspended the US Refugee Admission program for 120 days (or until reinstated) for refugee petitions from at least seven predominately Muslim countries (Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen). Other proposals being discussed by the White House include the cutting of the overall refugee program by 50%, effective within 30 days of action. Similarly proposed, the immediate repeal of DACA (Deferred Action for Children Arrival – which allowed at least 740,000 children, who were brought to this country before age 16, to temporarily work and go to school while Congress sought a permanent solution for comprehensive immigration reform) is also expected.
I can only imagine the direct impact on our vibrant and diverse community in the Northeast, knowing that those who have already immigrated will not be able to petition to bring the rest of their families here. I ask you to understand their situations right now, and I know that for some of you, it may be all too easy. For me, it’s almost unimaginable, the idea of watching my country be torn apart, to escape to a foreign land and apply for refugee or asylum status, waiting for years in make-shift camps. The joy of receiving papers, juxtaposed with knowing that you’re leaving loved ones behind. And now, the United States of America, the “land of opportunity,” a nation built on the backs of millions of immigrants from across the world, is saying “no more.” The idea of hope is terminated, because you wear funny clothes and share common ethnicity with a few bad people. The American Dream is lost completely.
It is important not to adopt an alarmist mentality, but we are facing a reality where the lives of civilians are used as pawns on a world-wide chess board. While we may not all agree on differing approaches to immigration reform, it’s imperative that we come from a place of mutual understanding and empathy. I guarantee that in some way, you have a direct connection to an immigrant or refugee, whether they are part of your family history, your next door neighbor, or they are your child’s classmate.
I PLEAD that you stand up for our neighbors and our community! We must rally around our community and support our organizations like Jewish Vocational Services, Della Lamb, and Don Bosco, which on a daily basis work to welcome refugees and immigrants.
Emma Lazarus, an early American poet, wrote the sonnet “The New Colossus” [excerpt below], which is now inscribed on a bronze plaque in the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty, the strongest symbol of immigration to the United States:
“Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” Emma Lazarus, 1883
Neighbors, those words are immortalized in one of our most cherished American monuments. We must embrace these words, and live up to Lady Liberty’s charge. We are an entire nation built on the hopes and dreams of millions of people and we need to refocus on the people.
“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.” These words matter; will we live up to those whose history came before us? Call, write, email and advocate for real, CONGRESSIONAL, compassionate comprehensive immigration reform. This is how you can reach out: U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (202) 224-8149; U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill (202) 224-6154; and Congressman Emanuel Cleaver (202) 225-4535.