October 20, 2017

Editorial

We must welcome the stranger

“You shall treat the alien who resides with you no differently than the natives born among you; have the same love for him as for yourself” (Lv 19:34).

This is one of about 137 verses in the Bible that tell us to be kind to the stranger, or the “alien who lives with you.” In Chapter 25 of Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus said that one who does not welcome the stranger does not welcome him “and will go off to eternal punishment” (Mt 25:46).

Despite that, there are those in the United States who not only do not welcome aliens or strangers, but are determined to keep them out and sometimes expel those who are here.

President Donald J. Trump is now using the “Dreamers” as a bargaining point in his effort to establish a wall between the United States and Mexico to keep Latinos from entering the country there.

“Dreamers” are those who were brought into the United States as children, who grew up as Americans but without documents, and are now making contributions to our country.

Nearly 800,000 of these Dreamers signed on to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) during the Obama administration. Now they are being threatened with deportation if Congress doesn’t act to protect them.

When the Dreamers signed up for the program, they had to give their personal information, including fingerprints, to the government, so now Immigration and Customs Enforcement knows exactly where they are.

President Trump has indicated that he feels sorry for them, but is demanding funding for his wall and other tightening of our immigration laws in exchange for his support of a bill to protect them.

During his campaign for the presidency, Trump discovered that a lot of Americans oppose our welcoming the stranger, especially, apparently, if they are Latinos. His call for a wall struck a nerve with those in opposition and helped him win the election. Now he wants to keep his campaign promise to build that wall.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said that Dreamers are “aliens” taking the jobs of Americans. These people are no more aliens than are their younger brothers and sisters who were born in the United States. They were raised here as Americans, and it’s the only country they know.

And with the unemployment rate now around 4 percent, they are hardly taking jobs away from others. Companies are hurting for lack of good employees, and 91 percent of the Dreamers are employed. Heads of more than 500 major companies sent a letter to Trump telling him that the U.S. could lose up to $460 billion if the companies have to lay off those workers.

Of course, employed workers are also consumers. Illegal immigrants pay $3.6 billion in property taxes and more than $1 billion in income taxes. They add $37 billion to the gross domestic product, much more than the benefits they receive. And they often accept jobs that American citizens refuse to do.

We don’t need that wall. It would be nearly impossible to build since the border is about 1,900 miles long and crosses rivers, mountains, deserts and other terrain. It would cost between

$12 and $15 billion, and it likely would not be effective in keeping people out in the long run. Surely technology can find better ways to protect the border than a wall.

Illegal crossing of our border with Mexico was a big problem 10 years ago, but it isn’t today. Today, more Mexicans are returning to Mexico than are coming into the United States because of the improving economy in Mexico.

Most of those crossing lately have been refugees from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. For a while there was a problem of unaccompanied children being sent to the United States from those countries to escape gangs. But even they are now stopping in Mexico instead of continuing on to the United States.

Yes, Congress should pass laws reforming immigration policy. It tried during the George W. Bush administration, but failed. Those who view immigration reform as rewarding illegal border crossings prevented such efforts. Because of our low birth rate, we must have more immigrants, not fewer.

Welcoming the alien is not only following biblical commands, but it is also the best policy for our country.

—John F. Fink

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