I applaud President Obama’s executive action on allowing many hardworking and lawful undocumented immigrants to be spared from deportation. It especially will affect families where the children are U.S. citizens or legal residents, but their parents don’t have their papers.
Instead of having to live in fear that they will be deported and have to either leave their children behind or take their children with them to Mexico — where many of these children have never been — now these families can remain united.
The executive action also further expands the number of so-called “Dreamers” who can apply for deportation reprieves by dropping earlier restrictions based on age and when they arrived as babies or young children with their undocumented parents. This was a courageous action on the part of the President and he should be applauded for it rather than vilified.
It is an understanding that the large majority of undocumented immigrants are not a threat to this country, but an asset. They have been working and contributing to the wealth of the country of which the rest of us benefit. Moreover, this action is not just an immigration matter, it is also a moral one as the president noted. It goes to the biblical message to welcome strangers and to protect and nurture them.
The president reminded us that although we are largely a nation of immigrants, many immigrants when they first arrived were treated as strangers and treated with a great deal of hostility and discrimination. This included many European immigrants. The Irish immigrants when they started arriving in large numbers in the mid-nineteenth century were met with a great deal of animosity because they were Catholics. So hated were the Irish Catholics that some nativists referred to them as “niggers.” Chinese and Japanese immigrants also in the nineteenth-century came under attack as the “yellow peril.”
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In the early twentieth-century, the so-called “New Immigrants” from eastern and southern Europe, such as Russians, Poles, Italians, and Greeks, were met with much opposition as being the wrong kind of Europeans because they were too Catholic, too Jewish, and too Mediterranean. Nativists considered them to be of inferior racial and non-white stock. It is ironic that the later descendants of these immigrants who were treated as strangers would forget this history and turn around and treat immigrants today as strangers.
Today’s immigrants, whether with documents or without, are all children of God as we are, and that is where we need to begin to have a humane immigration system. The president said as much in his speech and he is right. Immigration is also a moral issue. It is immoral to break up families and we would not want our own families broken up. The president appealed to our better nature and we need to emphasize that in our dealings with each other, and that includes our fellow undocumented people.