Let's get these kids food, shelter and protection


By Tom Ehrich

No question, the immigration crisis at our southwestern borders is complicated.

Feelings are high. Legal opinions are flying like paper airplanes. So are warnings about the future of America. It's guns-and-ammo time for some folks, and open-the-church-basement for others.

Meanwhile, at the center of it all are children, a steady stream of frightened, bewildered and brave children, who are trying to escape violence and poverty back home and find something better in the US.

I get the complexity. I understand the need for rational debate. And while some wingnuts seem eager to shoot anything that moves, I think people of good will on all sides can have that conversation.

From my vantage point in New York City, for many years the Rio Grande of immigrant arrivals, keeping immigrants out strikes me as foolish, though sadly familiar and predictable.

This city wouldn't exist without immigrants. Neither would Pittsburgh, Boston, Miami, Los Angeles, and entire states like Minnesota, the Dakotas, my home state of Indiana, Michigan, Texas and California.

In fact, nearly everything we have built and accomplished in this nation has come from immigrants and the sons and daughters of immigrants.

Keeping the next wave of immigrants out seems self-destructive. Yet it happens. Every wave of immigrants (other than African slaves) has faced the same nativism currently on display in Texas and Arizona. Russian Jews, Armenians, Irish, Germans, Italians, Africans and Muslims from various lands, even the English themselves had to scratch and claw their way in.

For a nation built on immigrants, we have been mighty inhospitable -- at the start of each wave. And then we become more welcoming, often because we see an economic advantage like cheap labor. And then we stop noticing quite so keenly who has a hyphenated identity.

I believe that, if we can avoid unleashing the wingnuts and their assault rifles on these children, they, too, will live long enough to find their way in. This is a big land, it has plenty of room, and its economy requires a steady flow of new workers and new customers.

The best idea I have seen is for people of faith -- who remember what Jesus actually taught about welcoming children and protecting the weak -- to descend on the border crossings, not to rumble, but to offer shelter in their homes to anxious children.

Take away the specter of mass incarceration and hordes waiting to "invade" and ruin America -- in whatever form the fearful think ruination will happen -- and treat them as what they are: frightened children, anxious parents, desperate human beings looking for what the Gospel clearly offers and what we in our Statue of Liberty promise.

We can sort out the legalities later. Let's get these kids beds, food, clothing, hope, and protection.

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