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Immigrants help our nation

Praise for the Jan. 13 article on immigration. The Trump administration has tried to portray immigrants and asylum-seekers as demons, would-be terrorists, thieves and exploiters. The administration aims to spend billions of taxpayer dollars to build a 1,900-mile wall along our southern border.

This wall would be entirely useless. Hacksaws, shovels and ladders are all it would take to defeat it. A wall does not stop determined people. During the Cold War, we counted those who scaled the Berlin wall as heroes. Most immigrants, documented and undocumented, arrive not on foot through the southern desert, but by air and other legal modes of transport.

Immigrants are not demons. Throughout our history, immigrants have done the hard work of building the nation, even though they routinely faced discrimination, exploitation and ill-treatment. White Americans who look askance at today’s darker-skinned immigrants should remember that their Irish, Italian, German and Eastern European ancestors faced exactly those same attitudes when they came to this country years ago.

White Americans who put down immigrants as “illegals” probably don’t know that after the First World War U.S. immigration laws were changed. They became drastically more restrictive. Had the laws when your ancestors sought to enter this country been what they are today, they too would have been branded “illegal,” and would probably have been jailed, and eventually deported back to the countries from which they came.

Professor Shoba Wadhia is a nationally known and well-respected authority on U.S. immigration law. She is able to offer facts, as opposed to the unfounded rumors that have been promoted in order to justify the mistreatment of immigrants at our southern border.

The United States signed the 1967 International Protocol on Refugees, and that protocol specifies that refugees must be treated in a fair and legal manner. Only Congress can change that. The Trump administration is flagrantly violating an international agreement. Especially outrageous and cruel is the separation of children from their parents at the border, a policy which has resulted in the deaths of at least 24 children, and the maltreatment of hundreds more.

The people we are talking about come to this country, not to find luxury or unfair advantages, but because they are desperate, and because they still believe in the United States as a place of justice and opportunity. They don’t come from countries where there is democracy, law and order, where they can go to the polls and vote out a bad administration. We in the United States may be suspicious of our government in Washington, but we don’t have to fear that its agents routinely conspire with criminal gangs, or that if we speak out for reform we are liable to be imprisoned and tortured.

In Honduras or El Salvador reporting a crime to the police can result in reprisals, even death, since the police are in collusion with the gangs who commit most of the offenses. In African countries ruled by dictators, just the suspicion that you may be a supporter of democracy can result in years of imprisonment and torture, which many don’t survive. In many places in the world, women who are abused have no legal recourse, and no way to seek safety but to flee. Gangs who traffic in narcotics, girls and women operate in such places with impunity.

We need to begin looking at those who seek refuge in our country with realism and compassion. We especially need to stop the maltreatment of children, and make every effort to reunite with their parents those who have been separated.

Immigrants don’t damage our nation; they enrich it. We who, thanks to the courage and good luck of our ancestors, are comfortably settled here should remember from whence we came.

Dr. Arno Vosk

Williamsport

Submitted via Virtual Newsroom

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