Pearls & Vodka

Immigration: A shining city on a hill or watching the world burn

I’m not sure the Nolan brothers had immigration in mind when they wrote their screenplay, but there is a lesson to be taken for sure.

In the 2008 Blockbuster hit, “The Dark Knight,” Alfred Pennyworth words could be likened to immigration, he said, “Well, because he thought it was good sport. Because some men aren’t looking for anything logical, like money. They can’t be bought, bullied, reasoned, or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn.”

And while the darkness of Gotham is fictional, sometimes art really does reflect life.

You may be unaware that there’s been some division in our country over the past few days in regards to immigration. And if you genuinely have been unaware, I encourage you to crawl out from the rock you are living under, there’s a lot going on around you.

Let me preface this blog by saying a few things, a) I am not a Constitutional expert, b) I am not a lawyer (couldn’t score high enough on the LSAT), c) I am a human, d) I am a mother, e) I am a friend and maybe most importantly, f) I am a child of God.

Backstory

Here’s the thing, immigration law is not new, it’s been around for, well, forever. I’m giving a little history lesson here. It’s lengthy. But it’s important. If you feel the need to post on social media, please do the responsible thing and at least be informed. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions. But history is history. “Proof is in the pudding” as some might say.

While I get that President Trump has a lot of critics and social media seems consumed with disdain for his words, his actions and his existence really, there are other players in the grand scheme of immigration and it’s important to know the details, a) to be more informed, b) to not spread lies, c) to not get swept up in the propaganda, d) to form your own opinions.

1986:  President Reagan signed the Immigration Reform and Control Act (“IRCA”). This law required employers to attest to their employees’ immigration status, made it illegal to recruit and hire illegal immigrants knowingly, legalized certain seasonal agricultural illegal immigrants and legalized illegal immigrants who entered the United States before January 1, 1982, who proved they had not committed any crimes, and who possessed at least a minimal knowledge of US history, government and the English language. [1]

IRCA did not have any bearing on children.

1987:  President Reagan used his executive authority to legalize the status of minor children of parents granted amnesty under the immigration overhaul, announcing a blanket deferral of deportation for children under 18 who were living in a two-parent household with both parents legalizing, or with a single parent who was legalizing. [1]

This action affected an estimated 100,000 families.

1996:  President Clinton signed the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (“IIRAIRA” or “IIRIRA”) vastly changing the immigration laws of our country. IIRAIRA stated that illegal immigrants who had been in the US for 180 days, but no more than 365 days, must leave and remain out of the US for three years unless they were pardoned. And if they were in the US for over a year, they must stay outside the US for 10 years or receive a pardon. If they violated this order, they had to stay out for 10 years before they could apply for another waiver. It also gave the Attorney General broad authority to construct barriers between the US-Mexico border. [2]

It was actually the Republican members of Congress who wrote President Clinton and asked him to back down on the deportation of those who committed minor crimes.

This law made legalizing citizens who were facing “extreme hardships” incredibly difficult, with a limitation of 3000 set.

In 1996 there were an estimated 5 million unauthorized immigrants in the US. By 2012, that number had jumped to over 12 million. In contrast, from 1986-1996 during the years of the Reagan Amnesty law, the number only grew by 2 million. [3]

2000:  President Clinton signed the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000.  It has the ability to authorize protections for undocumented immigrants who are victims of severe forms of trafficking and violence. It was reauthorized again in 2003, 2006, and 2008. It lapsed in 2011. This policy was put in place for those who were escaping a trafficking situation, with proof, and who were actively pursuing prosecuting their traffickers. It was not intended to address any other immigration situations. [4]

2008:  President Bush signed a bi-partisan law that required that unaccompanied minors seized at the border (except those from Mexico or Canada) cannot be deported to their home country without a full immigration hearing. Children from Mexico and Canada, on the other hand, can be subject to “voluntary repatriation” within 72 hours of their capture, so long as an immigration officer finds that they were not the subject of a “severe form of trafficking in persons” and do not have a basis to claim asylum. [5]

Under the law, within 72 hours of their capture, children from Central America must be transferred from immigration detention to the custody of the Department of Health & Human Services. The law further requires that the child be “promptly placed in the least restrictive setting that is in the best interest of the child” by HHS. Any child not released from HHS custody must receive a new hearing “at least monthly.” As a result, children are frequently placed into the custody of family members already in the United States, pending their immigration hearing. [5]

2018:  The Central American refugee crisis developed during President Barack Obama’s administration and continues under Trump. The two administrations have taken different approaches. Obama prioritized the deportation of dangerous people. Once he took office, Trump issued an executive order rolling back much of the Obama-era framework. [6]

Obama’s guidelines prioritized the deportation of gang members, those who posed a national security risk and those who had committed felonies. Trump’s January 2017 executive order does not include a priority list for deportations and refers only to “criminal offenses,” which is broad enough to encompass serious felonies as well as misdemeanors. [6]

2018:  Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued the “Renewed Commitment to Criminal Immigration Enforcement.” The focus of this policy was allegedly to prioritize the prosecution of certain criminal immigration offenses. [7]

When families or individuals are apprehended by the Border Patrol, they’re taken into DHS custody. Under the zero-tolerance policy, DHS officials refer any adult “believed to have committed any crime, including illegal entry,” to the Justice Department for prosecution. If they’re convicted, they’re usually sentenced to time served. The next step would be deportation proceedings.  After a holding period, DHS transfers children to the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) in the Department of Health and Human Services. [8]

So there you have it folks, a brief history lesson on the immigration policies in our country dating back to 1986.

A shining city on a hill

On the eve of his election in 1980, Ronald Reagan said, “I have quoted John Winthrop’s words more than once on the campaign trail this year—for I believe that Americans in 1980 are every bit as committed to that vision of a shining “city on a hill,” as were those long ago settlers …These visitors to that city on the Potomac do not come as white or black, red or yellow; they are not Jews or Christians; conservatives or liberals; or Democrats or Republicans. They are Americans awed by what has gone before, proud of what for them is still… a shining city on a hill.” 

President Reagan was not the first to use the “shining city on a hill” analogy.

In 1961, President-Elect John F. Kennedy said, “During the last 60 days I have been engaged in the task of constructing an administration…. I have been guided by the standard John Winthrop set before his shipmates on the flagship Arabella [sic] 331 years ago, as they, too, faced the task of building a government on a new and perilous frontier. ‘We must always consider,’ he said, ‘that we shall be as a city upon a hill—the eyes of all people are upon us.’ Today the eyes of all people are truly upon us—and our governments, in every branch, at every level, national, State, and local, must be as a city upon a hill—constructed and inhabited by men aware of their grave trust and their great responsibilities.” [10]

And since there have been some who have chosen to throw Scripture around as “digs” on social media, the origin of the phrase actually comes from Scripture. “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a bushel, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”Jesus, from the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5:14-16.

“A light of the world. A city set on a hill.”

If you really stop and examine what is happening in our country today, one might wonder, are we still a shining city on a hill? Or do we really just want to watch the world burn?

While I truly believe there are a lot of good-hearted folks on social media that really want to do right by people and help others, I also believe there are a lot of people who get caught up in emotions, blinded by pictures (some fabricated, some real) and loose sight of facts vs. fiction.

Make no mistake about it, the idea of separating a child from their parent is abhorrent to me.

You can be this and that

I believe wholeheartedly that I can despise separating children from their parents AND believe that the law should be upheld.

Sometimes laws suck. Sometimes they become outdated. Sometimes they work against us, even though they were intended for our good.

On June 12, 1967, the United States Supreme Court invalidated the prohibiting of interracial marriage.

On September 19, 2014, I, a caucasian woman, married my husband, an African American man.

You see the law was wrong from the beginning. It sucked. It was more than outdated. It worked against us. Though I’m not sure it was ever intended for our good, it was still a law.

And the law changed.

I hate to be told what to do

I could possibly be accused of being a smidge hard-headed. One of my biggest weaknesses is that I am stubborn. I, however, tell my husband all the time that my stubbornness is also one of my greatest strengths. I’ve taken some hits in life, physically, relationally, financially, spiritually and mentally. But as my Momma says, “we’ll get through this, we always do.” I’m a firm believer in picking myself up, dusting myself off, and getting back in the fight.

I hate to be told what to do. Often times to my detriment, occasionally to my benefit.

In reality though, I follow the rules more than I don’t. I see myself as a law-abiding citizen. I speed occasionally. OK, maybe regularly. But as far as laws go, that’s the only one I can think of that I truly break. Side note, thank God for the 75 MPH speed limit in Texas, it is one of the wonders of the world.

I follow the laws, but that doesn’t mean I don’t question them.

I’ve wondered often why we can sign our sons and daughters up to serve the military at 18, but they can’t buy a beer until they are 21. Yes yes, I know the pros and cons, please don’t jump all over me you are wasting your oxygen and my time.

The fact is, I question. I’m a learner. I like to see things for myself. I can’t stand folks that try to tell me what to think. I’ll figure it out for myself, thank you.

Our immigration laws are no different.

They are meant for our good. I can see in each point in history listed above the ways our Presidents and Congress were trying to protect our country. I can see each policy signed into law was flawed as well. I like to argue that we are human, and with humanity comes flaws. We just aren’t perfect. 

But that doesn’t mean we should stop trying.

We must and we should do better

Yesterday President Trump signed an Executive Order to keep families together when they are detained.

While it is a victory for those of us who hate seeing children separated from their parents, it comes with its own set of issues and it doesn’t address the children who have already been separated.

There are several bills being thrown around in Congress right now to try and “fix” the immigration crisis. God help me, Ted Cruz is making sense to me and that’s something that makes my stomach turn. But he’s on to something: increase the judges, shorten the asylum hearing process timeline, keep the families together. 

Make no mistake, nothing passed in Congress will “fix” the situation. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.

Donald Trump campaigned with the slogan, “Make America Great Again.”  I think it would do us all a lot of good to remember what makes America great. I don’t believe “again” fits because we haven’t stopped being great, at least yet.

Stop the bullying

Corey Lewandowski made a snide “whomp whomp” remark while the story of a ten year old girl with down syndrome was separated from her mother was being told. And even worse, refuses to apologize. Rosie O’Donnell spends her days now making tacky cartoons of political leaders she doesn’t agree with and damning people to hell that she doesn’t even know. Peter Fonda chose to target Barron Trump and wish ill on him, while others have even threatened the President’s four year old granddaughter.

Come on people. 

Have you no decency?

I was raised better

It’s not secret that I have a personal interest in some members of the President’s staff. Friendship will always trump politics to me. I’ll always defend my friends even if we don’t agree. Some have sent me messages questioning that and even criticizing that and that’s fine, send away. I’ll respond how I always do, “No comment.” I have no desire to enter into your dialogues of belittling. It’s not who I am. I was raised better. I have to bite my tongue, a lot. I want to unleash, go in, so to speak. But I don’t. 

Why?

Because I was raised better.

For what it’s worth though, its exhausting to see some of you touting “friendships” with people from college when in reality you have no relationship. You use it as a validation to your thoughts as if your claims of friendship make you some more accepted and respected voice.

Do all you can with what you have

I can’t fix the crisis at the border, anymore so than you can. But I can stay informed, I can pray, I can donate, I can volunteer. So can you. 

If all you are doing is sitting around on social media sharing graphics, links and videos that you personally cannot validate, what are you really doing?

Did you vote? Are you going to vote? Did you call your Congressman?

Do all you can with what you have. 

Use your voice for good.

I get that President Trump isn’t super popular. I get that often times the verbiage that comes from his Twitter isn’t spectacular. I get that the actions of some in his Administration are hard to swallow on occasion.

But if all you are doing is shedding proverbial tears on Facebook, how are you being part of the solution?

For what it’s worth, just saying “it’s the law, go home” or “they broke the law, too bad” or “let them all in” or “we should welcome all” are all statements of division and honestly, ignorance. And if those are your only arguments to share, or thoughts to tweet, you really should do better.

So what’s it going to be, will you be a shining city on a hill, or are you just here to watch the world burn?

#kanyein2020 #justjoking #calmdown

 

Photo by Erik Lindgren on Unsplash

References:

[1] https://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/history/35th/thelaw/irca.html

[2] https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/illegal_immigration_reform_and_immigration_responsibility_act

[3] https://www.vox.com/2016/4/28/11515132/iirira-clinton-immigration

[4] https://www.state.gov/j/tip/laws/61124.htm

[5] https://www.cnbc.com/2014/07/17/what-triggered-the-child-immigration-crisiscommentary.html

[6] https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/executive-order-border-security-immigration-enforcement-improvements/

[7] https://www.justice.gov/opa/press-release/file/1049751/download

[8] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/wp/2018/06/19/the-facts-about-trumps-policy-of-separating-families-at-the-border/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.b245ea0f834c

[9] http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=85199

[10]  https://www.bartleby.com/73/1611.html