Larry Strauss, veteran high school teacher and basketball coach; author, “Students First and Other Lies” writes in HuffPost:
“Trump and his supporters have their own moral arguments. They say we must put America and Americans first. Of course these phrases express geographic ignorance, since many of the people they wish to expel are, in fact, Americans (the U.S. being but one country in America). But we know what they mean. Why should citizens of the United States be sympathetic to people from other places when so many of our own people are struggling so mightily? One can argue that undocumented individuals are not actually taking away jobs or other resources from those born here, but it’s a tough sell to someone whose financial fortunes have collapsed in the last five or ten or twenty years. The students in my classroom who were brought here or born to parents who came here will almost uniformly go further than those parents and enjoy prosperity far beyond that of those parents. It is not surprising that they are resented by those Americans (of the U.S. variety) whose prospects are far less than those of their parents and grandparents.
But politics and policies born of resentment cannot be good for the soul of our country. Nor can any law — ANY LAW ANYWHERE — that, for any reason, hurts children. If you are knowingly hurting children, there is something wrong with you, whether or not you have the law on your side.
Every year the school at which I teach enrolls students in my classes and whoever those children are I teach the hell out of their class for them — and so do most of my colleagues.
When you work with kids you don’t decide who deserves to be taught and encouraged. Where they come from and how they got here just doesn’t matter. I once taught the grand-daughter of a Nazi who’d escaped to El Salvador after World War II. The girl owed me no apology or explanation. Just her best effort and her homework on time — most of the time.
So I am not sympathetic to those who wish to punish the children of those who snuck into our country — or those who came on false pretenses.
I wish that Jeff Sessions and his ICE men and women would restrict their deportations to serious criminals — those no country wants. Why are federal agents wasting time and resources on people who’ve committed minor crimes? Are such actions any better than a municipality shutting down a lemonade stand because of a city ordinance?
Here’s an idea: if the crime of an undocumented immigrant does not exceed the crime of Jeff Sessions himself (perjury, that is) then let them stay. And if the harm of the deportation exceeds the harm of the deportee’s crime then let’s have a little collective heart.
We are a nation of laws but if those laws are being used to harm people for political expedience by indulging bigotry and ethnic paranoia, then those laws do not deserve out respect and the politicians exploiting them do not deserve our support.
Those who deported Mexicans and Mexican-Americans in the 1930s were within the law — but on the wrong side of history.
Those who interned Japanese Americans in the 1940s were within the law — but on the wrong side of history.
Those who forced Native American children into border schools to assimilate them were within the law — but on the wrong side of history.
Trump and Sessions are within the law — at least they are on immigration enforcement — but their cruelty is dragging us all onto the wrong side of history.”
I couldn’t agree more with Strauss’s sentiments, although I’m not willing to say that everything Trump, Sessions, Kelly, and company are proposing is within the law. In fact, they seem to be heading toward some massive violations of the due process guaranteed by law.
However, “nations that turn their backs on children will be dealt with harshly by history” is the gist of an earlier op-ed that I wrote criticizing the Obama Administration’s inhumane and wrong-headed prioritization of recently arrived women and children for removal. http://wp.me/P8eeJm-1A.
While the “Obama priorities” were rescinded upon the change of Administration, the Trump Administration appears to have an even crueler and more inhumane fate in store for women and children seeking refuge from the Northern Triangle: detention, expedited removal, attempts to deny the fair opportunity to apply for asylum, intentional restriction of access to counsel, criminal prosecution of parents seeking to save their children, and an overall atmosphere of coercion and mistreatment meant to encourage those who have recently arrived to abandon their claims for refuge and to discourage others from coming to seek refuge under our laws. Only time will tell whether the Article III Courts will allow the Administration to get away with it.
I particularly like Strauss’s use of the “Sessions standard” — anybody who has done no more than perjure themselves under oath should be allowed to stay. And, talk about someone who has lived on the “wrong side of history” for his entire life, yet stubbornly refuses to change: well, that’s the very definition of Jeff Sessions’s depressingly uninspiring career. Given a chance for some redemption late in life, he’s instead choosing to “double down” on his biases and narrow outlook. Jeff had better hope that there’s forgiveness for his sins out there somewhere in the next world.