Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Accepting Refugees

Yesterday at Steven Hyland's invitation I participated in a panel discussion at Wingate University on unaccompanied minors from Central America. That is a crisis that requires compassion, generosity, and complex thinking. U.S. policies (not to mention drug consumption) helped exacerbate many existing problems in Central America, and we need to acknowledge that. It's not easy for local governments and schools to deal adequately with the challenge, but we need to do it because as Americans that's what we should do.

Coincidentally, yesterday was also when Governor Pat McCrory joined many of his counterparts across the nation when he announced he would ask the federal government to stop sending Syrian refugees to North Carolina (some governors had even stronger wording). One member of the General Assembly actually said we should deport the Syrian refugees (numbers vary, but under 60) already in the state. Just because.

The utter lack of compassion and responsibility just floors me. We've been bombing Syria for over a year, which means that people who are already terrified of ISIS are even more on the run, not knowing where to go or what to do. Refugees have not been sources of terrorism. We are contributing to the refugee flow and need to acknowledge that.

Even worse is that anti-immigrant arguments are being made by people who strongly self-identify as Christians. As the spokesman for the Catholic Charities Diocese of Charlotte said:

“Refugees have been fleeing terrorism since the family of Jesus fled from Bethlehem to Egypt to escape the edict of King Herod that all baby boys under the age of 2 should be put to death.”

Read more here: http://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/state-politics/article45083670.html#storylink=cpy

But this comparison doesn't seem to resonate, and I can't express how much it saddens me. I've been reading internet trolls and ignorant shares on Facebook/Twitter for years, not to mention the fact that I study politics, where hypocrisy is rampant. But for some reason this saddens me in particular. We are engaged in a war and there are innocent people, including young children, running for help. And for many people the response is the middle finger. Chris Christie even said we should not let in orphans under 5 years of age. That's who we are as a nation? Really?

During the panel discussion at Wingate, Federico Rios, who works with undocumented children in Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools through the nonprofit Communities in Schools, gave accounts of seven-year old children sitting in front of an immigration judge and getting grilled, then given a deportation order. My youngest daughter is seven years old, and it is overwhelming to try and picture her in the same situation. We need to show compassion and we just aren't doing it. We are better than this.


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