LANCASTER, Ohio — Republicans in Congress should be applauding, not clamoring to impeach, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas for his more humane approach to the migrant crisis.
After all, the Bible tells us, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.” But, that doesn’t seem to apply to the surge of migrants at our southern border. Although it now includes people from around the world, the vast majority are desperate people from repressive or poverty-stricken countries within walking distance of the United States.
There is little mystery as to why so many people are willing to take the risk on a lengthy, dangerous and sometimes deadly trek that requires them to cross rivers, deserts and manmade barriers.
As Doctors Without Borders reported in 2018, the Northern Triangle countries of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras are experiencing “unprecedented levels of violence outside a war zone” while The Guardian’s Julian Borger explained, also in 2018, that “the forces driving ordinary people to leave their homes and put their lives at risk crossing deserts with smugglers to get to the US border are deeply rooted in Central America’s history of inequality and violence.”
Public opinion also favors leniency in such cases.
Based on a September survey, the Pew Research Center reports that “about three-quarters of Americans (73%) say increasing security along the U.S.-Mexico border to reduce illegal crossings should be a very (44%) or somewhat (29%) important goal of U.S. immigration policy.” But it adds that, “Majorities of Americans also say taking in civilian refugees from countries where people are trying to escape violence and war (72%) and allowing immigrants who came to the country illegally as children to remain in the U.S. and apply for legal status (72%) should be important goals for the immigration system.”
Federal law also requires those seeking asylum to be heard.
As Dara Lind, a reporter who specializes in immigration topics, wrote last September in an opinion article for The New York Times, “The 1980 Refugee Act is unequivocal: People can cross into the country illegally and ask for asylum, and once they are here, the government is obligated to hear them out. That law codifies our commitment to the United Nations Refugee Convention, first drafted in the wake of the Holocaust to enshrine an ethical obligation known as “non-refoulement”: a government must not send people back to a country that will persecute them.”
But, under the Republican approach, immigrants would be blocked from entry and returned immediately, without the due process outlined in U.S. immigration law or regard for federal and international asylum laws.
Further, during the 2022 midterms, the ACLU reported that “America’s Voice, an immigration advocacy organization, identified over 3,200 different paid communications that employed anti-immigrant attacks.”
As for the claim that illegal immigration is unfair to people who have gone through the system legally, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops explains that, “Under the current immigration legal framework, lawful immigration to the United States is restricted to only a few narrow categories of persons. Most current unauthorized immigrants residing in the United States are ineligible to enter legally with a ‘green card’ as a lawful permanent resident for the purpose of living and working in the country.”
Desperate people will do desperate things to find a better and safer life for themselves and their families. The New Testament tells us to “Be sure to welcome strangers into your home. By doing this, some people have welcomed angels as guests, without even knowing it.”
We can certainly use a few more angels in our American home.
Chuck Ardo, a retired political consultant in Lancaster, Ohio, previously served as press secretary to former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell and as communications director for the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General.
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