Yes, even illegals. I don’t want known criminals to enter the country, but I do favor sanctuary for desperate refugees. It’s surprising that Trump supporters don’t value those winners who flee tyranny and arrive here from Central America. These people “made it”! Think of the courage, the perseverance, the drive those people have shown! You think they won’t be able to contribute to this country? They’re success stories!
OK, they should enter legally. Right. If possible. Confronted with this dilemma, I think of the word “equity.” It doesn’t only mean “equality.” It also means “fairness” —in the deepest sense. It applies particularly to situations like this, when applying the law strictly would result in a greater injustice than letting an apparent violation pass.
A good example comes from Berlin after the Wall went up. How we cheered for the captives of the East who made it, underground, illegally, to West Berlin! The Newseum celebrates the contrast today in Washington D. C., where the two sides of the Wall are on display.
|East Side||West Side|
Perhaps recognizing that legacy, or conscious of those forced to flee the Nazis, Angela Merkel led Europe in accepting refugees from the Middle East and North Africa in Germany. She has paid a political price, but it was the right thing to do.
There are other historical parallels that wrench the heart. I’m reminded of the Jews from Germany who sailed to our shores in the 1940s and were sent back to die in the concentration camps. I’m reminded of the hope that Israel represented for many compelled to flee the Nazis and who needed a refuge, a sanctuary. America has offered similar hope to many over the centuries. How legally they all entered: all the Irish, Italians, Jews, Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese and others from around the world (despite our legal but immoral bias towards certain countries —races) is an open question. In today’s debates, it’s assumed they all entered legally. Frankly, I doubt it. But how do you prove it either way after all this time?
The Underground Railroad also comes to mind. This illegal network helped the enslaved escape after the Northern states abolished slavery before and during the Civil War. They were all “illegals,” the property of their owners (whatever that means). Anyone who located one was bound to return him or her. Fortunately, many people understood the principle of equity and offered them sanctuary. You bet! I’m on the side of the enslaved who escaped and I favor those who sheltered them.
As for the illegals at our borders today I say we should process them kindly. Many of them openly seek legal status under the laws of sanctuary, specifically the right of non-return or non-refoulement. Prohibitions against forcing refugees back into danger in their home countries exist in international and United States law. Sure, some cross outside established entry points, but many, many more are waiting their turn for legal hearings. They are being stalled by a contrived shortage of personnel and the Trump administration’s vindictiveness. We, as citizens, could meet this challenge if we wished, if we would pressure our representatives to act humanely instead of from xenophobic fear of strangers. Anything less is a prodigious sin of omission.
Some people object that creating sanctuaries opens our borders and threatens national security. The smear of “open borders” is a vicious exaggeration. No one goes that far. The charge implies we wish no planning whatsoever. But that is not the case. When we accept this challenge, as we must, we could organize humane transition centers, guarantee an education, teach English and Spanish, inculcate the basics of democracy through civics, American history, and entrepreneurship — as we do our own. Once trained here, some would return and implant our values in their home countries. Indeed, it is the lack of such institutions and opportunities —not to mention crime, corruption, gang violence, economic devastation, and drought caused by global warming— in their homeland that has driven them here. Such a plan would implement the vision articulated but not effectuated by presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush of spreading democracy. When we wake up and do that, we would teach not only by precept but also by example. Yes, these ideas would be expensive, but this investment would yield ample returns in economic benefit and international good will. We Americans like to think of ourselves as world leaders. How can we ignore an opportunity like this?