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Choice of Freedom

By RU Bored

Immigration. It’s suddenly become a huge issue in the United States. Since President Trump began strictly and aggressively enforcing immigration laws, mostly on those coming in through Mexico, everyday life has changed for millions of people. Across the country, families of mixed legal and illegal immigrants, their friends, neighbors, schools, churches and employers are all affected. Whole communities are scrambling for answers to survival and ideological questions.

Even as immigrants here live in fear of increasing deportation, Trump is implementing plans to massively expand detention, by almost 500%, of those entering illegally. People previously part of a “catch and release” policy, who were simply bused back across the border as soon as they entered the United States will now be arrested, fingerprinted and detained, perhaps indefinitely. To further deter illegal entry, parents may be held separately from their children, as they wait for their immigration interview.

I strongly disagree with President Trump’s approach to illegal immigration. But I also strongly believe that immigration needs to be legal – for everyone’s benefit. Illegal immigration anywhere is not a positive situation for anyone involved. And we are all involved – every citizen of this world.

It’s hard to know how to look at this issue, especially as an American. Immigration is a foundational principle of the United States. We’ve been a society of immigrants since our beginning, even before we were a country. Most everyone here came from somewhere else. Depending on what one believes about the origins of man, and with all the evidence of multiple civilizations arriving here centuries before Europeans did, it could be argued that there are no people indigenous to this nation. And yet our Constitution clearly gives Congress power of “uniform rule of naturalization.”

The Pilgrims stepping off the Mayflower certainly didn’t need a visa or a passport to come in to this land. Our history would be so different if the Native Americans had had a strict immigration policy, or extreme vetting, as so many of our fore founders were the rabble and the rebels of the countries they came from. The settlers fought and killed natives, eventually basically stealing all the land of this country from them.

So who are we, now, to say that certain people can’t come into this country because of their political or religious beliefs? Well, things have changed considerably since colonial times, haven’t they? We have national security issues that are real and valid. All countries do. The challenges are in how to sort it all out in a fair and balanced way, so that no one’s human rights are violated. All people have the right to be free, but so do we all have the right to defend our lives and protect ourselves from danger. And it comes now in so many hidden, unexpected ways.

I’m not a rules and regulations type. I look at laws and rules as guidelines. I’m not for recklessly disobeying or needlessly breaking the law: if I get caught driving over the speed limit, I get a ticket. I honor the legal system and most institutional rules. But I’m all for bending a rule or making an exception if it makes no good sense to rigidly apply it. I don’t see arresting someone for jaywalking, if they ran across the street to help someone who just had a car accident, as valid application of a law.

Civilizations change and grow over time, requiring adapting laws to new situations and ideas. I believe in an intelligent, ever-evolving flexibility of law. But laws change slowly and usually with much resistance, so how do we respond to laws we deem unfair or outdated? We respond by personal, individual choice. Which might call for creative, peaceful civil disobedience.

We see this now, with sanctuary cities openly refusing to give up undocumented immigrants to immigration officials, and people marching in protest, or tying themselves to a police vehicle to keep it from taking their illegal loved one away. Each person in each situation has to make choices about how he or she will respond to current laws according to his or her perspective, beliefs and feelings. All responses are valid expressions of free choice, none to be judged and all to be valued. These shared experiences are how we grow and evolve together to better and better expressions of our humanity.

To me, an illegal immigrant is like an uninvited guest who shows up at the door rudely assuming – indeed, demanding – hospitality, completely without regard for the resources, needs and previous commitments of the imposed-upon host. To come into a country illegally shows incredible lack of respect for that country and its citizens. It seems that people are seeking protection and privileges without responsibilities. Don’t they see the irony in disrespecting the country and the people they so want to accept them?

Illegal entry is also an insult to every person who has come here legally. It much dishonors those, who, for many decades, from many lands, took the time and made the years of effort to go through the proper immigration process, as long and inconvenient as it is, some even giving their lives in military service attempting to gain citizenship.

I resent it when immigrants, legal or illegal, especially those who have lived here many years, make little or no attempt to learn English. So much effort is made in this country to make information available in Spanish, while those who struggle with language disabilities in English don’t get the help they need. This is personal for me. My adult daughter, who has severe dyslexia, has not been able to get anyone in the school system, or day care, to give her consistent help reading information that comes home for her sons, even as every paper comes printed in Spanish. This is after years of repeated requests.

I really don’t like it when illegal immigrants see themselves as victims when they are deported. Our immigration laws are clear, have been clear all along, as they changed over time. To have an attitude that our country or our president is punishing them for being here illegally, or that we are tearing their families apart, seems twisted to me. Except for slaves, every single person who has ever come to the United States illegally made a choice to be here.

Soul is about freedom. Freedom is about choice. And all choices have consequences. Everyone who came here illegally, and then had children, who they knew would be American citizens, made those choices knowing that they could possibly be separated one day. Accept the power of your choice. You put yourself in this position, not the United States government or its citizens.

All that said, I also see that many people trying to get into the United States, or any safe country, are coming out of desperation. There must be dire motivation to take such high risks for change, especially with children.  I admire that bravery. Paperwork and process must seem deeply irrelevant when fleeing from violence, oppression, persecution.

Seeking asylum is a type of immigration. But such refugees are still subject to requirements of entry into a host country. It seems heartless, especially with an unprecedented number of refugees worldwide at this time. But everything in life is a process. And documentation is much a fact of modern life. You can’t pound a nail into a board any more without a permit. Legal immigration supports the health and safety of those coming into a country as well as those already in it.

I would like our immigration system to be more than humane – to be gracious, generous and welcoming. But also fair and reasonable, applying common sense. If we can apply mind and heart to immigration policies that is true compassion – with many choices of freedom for all.

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