God Is in The Details: The US Ban on Refugees

“But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?”
– 1 John 3:17

Does God’s love abide in America? For so many here, the US is the epitome of a Christian nation. Yet this country continues to turn its back on its brothers in need.

Since 2015, more than 60 million people have been displaced worldwide; Syria alone has 6.6 million within its own borders and another 4.8 million in nearby countries. The people of Syria have been ravaged by war for nearly six years. They have lost their families, their homes and any other semblance of a normal life.

But rather than lend a helping hand, yesterday, our new president signed an order to ban those who need us most. Now, I am not devoutly religious, but I grew up in a Christian home. There is one thing I know: You cannot be a Christian only when it’s convenient or twist it to fit your desires. You either live by the word or you don’t. Yesterday’s executive order clearly shows that we do not.

Sadly, I don’t believe it was by accident that this order was signed on Holocaust Remembrance Day. It was meant to send a message that we are slowly redesigning the fabric of America – a fabric that lacks color and consists of only one moral fiber. Without uttering the words, we let the world know that we value certain human lives more than others. And with that, we closed our hearts to millions in need.


<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/195306938″>REFUGE | Human stories from the refugee crisis</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/magnacartatv”>Magna Carta</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

But why are Americans so frightened? Has people’s faith become so fragile and tenuous that it cannot exist in the presence of another religion? Or is it simply that our politics have overpowered beliefs or corrupted them in some way? I do not believe in bringing religion into politics, but I also know politics are about people, and religion is a large part of our people’s lives. And when it is balanced and coming from the right place, we generally are better for it.

This week I saw the best of humankind as people traveled to south Georgia to help families recover from our recent deadly tornadoes. I see this year after year. People drive long distances to help others in need – people who may or may not share their religious beliefs. Yet, we cannot do the same for our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world.

The people of Syria want the same things as the people of south Georgia – to return to some level of normalcy in a place they can call home. They want to regain everything they have lost. If we can take care of our family here in Georgia, why can’t we offer that same hand to our family in other lands?

I do not believe this country has turned down the darkest path just yet, but we are letting our politics and fears overpower who we truly are as a nation. Americans help those in need. We always have; I hope we always do. We are a fair and loving people when we are at our best. But right now, we are not at our best.

We have allowed a few to fill us with doubt and darkness. But we are a strong nation with strong people who have always shed light on those in need. I ask if you are reading this, listen to the people in this video without any filter of politics or religion. See them only as the humans that they are – like a neighbor down the street.

America, we have all of the world’s goods. Are we strong enough to share them?

To Mexico with Love

Yesterday’s news on immigration and the southern border wall was difficult to watch. I was sad and angry at the same time … our new president and his damn wall. I read the online outrage from the Hispanic community and I was ashamed, knowing it was justified and true.

Last night I began a “letter” to the people of Mexico so I could express all that I was feeling and to let them know that many of us care. But today, he tweeted. My sadness turned to anger. So instead of waxing poetic about our president’s ill-advised trade wars, I want to help fight off his attacks directly.

To win this battle, we will have to fight fire with fire. If his playground is social media, we will take it over. Where he tells alternative facts, we’ll tell the truth. When he threatens deportation, we will help people find shelter.

Below are several tidbits of information that I have gathered for social media use. I shortened content to tweet length so it can be copied and pasted. For longer posts such as Facebook, click the link and copy from the site. I’ve included source links to provide legitimacy. I recommend you use them, too, if space permits. I have divided content into the administration’s key talking points — deportation, crime, jobs and trade — and provided a few other categories just for good measure. It is not a lot, but it is a something.

American Views on Immigration

  • 72% of Americans surveyed want children who came to the US illegally to stay & apply for legal status. http://pewrsr.ch/2kzxM1
  • 6 in 10 people think it’s important to establish a way for most here illegally to stay legally. http://pewrsr.ch/2kzxM1Y

Deportation – Immigrant Resources

Crime

  • Harvard sociologist says higher immigration & language diversity decreases neighborhood homicide rates. http://econ.st/2k898o8
  • Harvard sociologist says Mexican immigrants less prone to violence than native-born whites or blacks. http://econ.st/2k898o8
  • First generation immigrants less likely to commit crimes than non-Hispanic, native-born whites. http://pewrsr.ch/2jXAL12
  • Research shows second generation immigrants assimilate to American crime culture. http://pewrsr.ch/2jXAL12
  • Only 1.6% immigrant males 18-39 are incarcerated, compared to 3.3% of native born Americans. http://bit.ly/2jaq91I
  • Mexican-born men 18-39 three times LESS likely to be incarcerated in the US than native-born Amercian men. http://bit.ly/2jaq91I
  • Immigrant less likely than native-born to engage in violent or antisocial behavior. http://bit.ly/2jaq91I
  • Immigrants are less likely than native-borns to be repeat offenders among high-risk adolescents. http://bit.ly/2jaq91I

Immigration Rates and Population Statistics

Trade

Jobs

  • Nearly 5 million US jobs depend on trade with Mexico. http://bit.ly/2jvDMXu
  • If trade between US & Mexico halts, 4.9 million Americans would be out of work. http://bit.ly/2jvDMXu
  • 1 in 29 US jobs depends on preserving an economic relationship with Mexico. http://theatln.tc/2kra0BO
  • US & Mexican companies are creating joint ventures; each side playing a different role – impossible to untie. http://theatln.tc/2kra0BO
  • Only 13% of manufacturing jobs lost from 2000-2010 were due to trade; 87% due to productivity increases. http://theatln.tc/2kra0BO
  • Research shows that a 10% increase in employment at a US-owned plant in Mexico results in a 1.3% increase in US workforce. http://theatln.tc/2kra0BO
  • NAFTA creates 200,000 export-related jobs annually that pay 15-20% more on average than the jobs lost. http://on.cfr.org/2jvPUrF
  • If exports to Mexico slow or the country adds tariffs, the Rust Belt states will be some of the hardest hit. http://bit.ly/2jDy6se

What It’s Like to Be a Girl

Men don’t know what it’s like to be a girl. So why do they get to make the decision on the ultimate of female choices?

Earlier this week, Donald Trump re-established and expanded the Global Gag Rule, which blocks US aid to foreign organizations that provide or offer guidance on abortions using other contributed funds. This decision impacts much more than abortion; these clinics also treat HIV and Zika and offer family planning and prevention. But the emphasis from the Trump administration is on abortion. Why are elderly, white men so set on telling a woman what she can or cannot do with her own body and life?

The decision to have or not have a child is the one decision in the world that only a female can truly comprehend. Men will never understand that process. They do not have to carry a child inside them for nine months or care for that child after it is born. They do not have to rear the child, cloth it, bath it, feed it and teach it how to survive in the world. They may play a role, but rare, if ever, is it expected to be their full-time responsibility. And women know this. The father being a part of child’s life is not an absolute – not even when conceived within a happy marriage.

For a woman, this is a life-long commitment. Not a day or two here and there, or a few days a week when we’re not working. It’s every second of every day until the child is grown, and even then you are still a large part of that child’s life and support system. Not that the father isn’t, but typically it is far less hands-on.

Once we turn a certain age, assuming we have healthy functioning bodies, motherhood is always a possibility for us. It is a thought that lingers in the back of our mind during every life decision we make, every change that we make, every move that we make. If I take this job, buy this home, or move away from my family can I manage it if I get pregnant? It’s always there, somewhere – even if it’s not the prominent question, it’s still there.

That is why only the woman should make this decision. She may opt to include her partner in deciding if she is in a relationship, but even then she knows she has no guarantees. Will this person help support her and the child, will they help every day or will I do all the work? And if this person leaves, can I manage to raise the child on my own? There are so many questions that come to the forefront when your faced with the fact that you may have to feed, house, clothe and support not only yourself but a child as well.

I have never had to make this decision, but I have thought about whether I would or would not choose to have an abortion in various situations. We all do, whether we admit or not – that is what it’s like to be a girl. It is a responsibility that only we carry. For me, I do not believe I could make that choice unless it was going to cause more suffering for the child to be born, but that does not mean I should make that decision for another woman. I could not make that decision for another.

If I lived in an area that received aid from these US funds that Trump stopped, I may very well have a different perspective. If I lived in a war-torn country where I experience bombing, bad living conditions, constant fear, poor food, lack of water, disease and rape or other atrocities, then I likely would not bring a child into that world … if I had a choice.

I absolutely believe there are situations when it is the merciful choice. Some people are mentally and emotionally incapable of caring for a child. I know people like this, people who have left their children uncared for and alone in the world. There are people who have mistreated children or brought them into a world filled with drugs and crime. A child should never experience that world nor should it be delivered into a home of an abusive parent or child molester. Yet, it happens every day in this country and perhaps in even worse conditions around the world. So, yes, there are absolutely times when abortion is the most caring, most loving and most Godly of choices.

But no one can know or decide that but the mother. And I will never believe that it is an easy choice for anyone for all the reasons I’ve talked about here. It is something we think about from the time we hit puberty, it’s always there, we’ve always thought about it. And whether you believe in God or not, I suspect you come your closest to that spiritual side of yourself if you are ever faced with such a decision. And if you are of believer of any faith, and I am certain that many women who have abortions are, that decision should be between that woman and her God and no one else, except perhaps her partner.

As my dad always said, “It is not our place to judge.” And it is most definitely not our Government’s place either.

Helpless in America: DACA’s Dreamers Await their Destiny

Policy and politics are about people – we forget that far too often. Unfortunately, while the right is arguing with the left about who has the best plan or the most votes, the people who are actually affected by a given policy are simply caught in the middle. Helpless.

Those currently covered under DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) are a prime example. I cannot honestly imagine what these people are feeling right now. I would be completely distraught in their situation.

They came to America as children. They did not choose to come here illegally; their parents did. And to anyone who argues differently (Rep. Steve King), a young child doesn’t move from one country to another of his or her own volition. And now that the new administration is taking office in just a few hours, their entire lives may be destroyed.

It is sad that DACA participants are trying to do the right thing, but it just isn’t enough for some people in this country. They joined this program and provided all of their information so they could take the next steps to improve their lives and start down the path toward citizenship. The program offered all the tools to legally get a job and pay taxes via a Social Security card, as well as get a driver’s license and worker’s permit. So why isn’t that enough for those who want immigrants “to just be legal?”

Any legal process toward citizenship requires you to live here with documentation saying you are an immigrant, then permanent resident and finally a naturalized citizen. So why are a social security card, a work permit and a driver’s license viewed so differently and why do those on the right of this debate want to discard DACA and DAPA (the parent version of the program) without question?

The answer is simple. Those who are pushing for more stringent immigration reform and enforcement don’t want immigrants here. There is no other argument to be made. No matter how many times they say, “As long as they are legal, they can stay,” it does not ring true if they are presented with a simple, plausible pathway to legalization and they will not accept it and want to overturn it. And they can say it is not about ethnicity but rather legality, but I do not believe them.

Economically speaking, DACA participants are exactly what the US labor force needs. Corporations have been saying for years that they are unable to find qualified workers here and, with the baby boomers entering retirement, that task is only going to grow more difficult as the US labor force takes a massive dip in numbers.

Meanwhile, more than 90 percent of DACA participants are pursuing educational opportunities that they previously did not have the opportunity pursue. Of those, 83 percent are working toward associate’s or bachelor’s degrees and 17 percent toward advanced degrees.

Being bilingual also helps American businesses. According to Northwestern University, “Speaking more than one language increases your cognitive abilities such as problem-solving, creativity, and memory.” It also helps those companies that are based or owned abroad, which is about one-third of US businesses. Yet, only 17 percent of Americans are bilingual. Perhaps we need to look out our own inflexibility and lack of skills instead of blaming immigrants for taking our jobs.

I could go on and on about the benefits of a diversified labor force and how immigrants positively impact our society. There are so many statistics out there to support this. But that is not the point of this post.

For me, it is equally important to focus on the fact that these are human beings, just like me and you. They may speak a different language or have a different complexion (and sometimes neither of these are the case), but they are human. And any human should have the right to make a better life for themselves and their families. If that means moving to another country, then so be it. For so many on the right to say we are a Christian country, the general beliefs of love thy neighbor and care for one another without judgement just never seem to find their way into the debate on immigrants.

I was so impressed by the young woman who stood up at Paul Ryan’s town hall last week and asked him directly if he thought she should be deported. She is protected under DACA and has a daughter. She spoke on how DACA helped her, but now she’s afraid she will be deported and separated from her child. I hope her question, with her daughter standing by her side, helped put a face on this discussion for those so opposed to allowing immigrants to stay here.

And there are so many other stories like hers. There is Juan de la Rosa Diaz, who is a student at Virginia Tech. He plans to pursue a doctorate and become a college professor, but now he is afraid that he will be deported if DACA ends and is required to leave his sisters, who were born here, behind. He texted them on election night to tell them that this was still their country no matter what the results say. A 20-year-old should not have to worry about these things. That is not the kind of country we are.

Just to make a point, here are a few more stories from DACA recipients.

And what is my point, exactly? My point is that I want to put a face (or a voice) to this discussion. I want people to here these stories. These people have built their lives here. They have families here. They buy cars, go to school and get jobs just like everyone else. And they did what the law of the land allowed them to do in terms of being legal.

But as a country, we are so eager to turn our backs on these people who are our neighbors, our coworkers and, in some cases, our families. We are so anxious about losing ourselves and our “American culture” that we don’t realize we’re missing out on adding a different flavor to our culture. And instead of letting them stay in a country they have known the majority of their lives, America wants to send them away with no questions asked.

Immigrants are people. They are not evil. They do not want to destroy your culture or your way of life. They just want better lives and I think we can all relate to that. They are humans who deserve to be treated as humans, with dignity and respect – not like discarded clothes that we no longer want.

Are There Holes in the Wall Theory?

This has been a very busy week. With the cabinet confirmation hearings and the President-elect’s press conference, there are almost too many topics to discuss at one time. All I can do is choose one and go.

With that, I will talk about our relations with Mexico since, like Sen. Menendez of New Jersey, I “care about the western hemisphere.”

The new administration reiterated this week its desire to build the physical wall along the US-Mexico border and the economic wall of border tariffs. The theory is that by economically blocking Mexico, we will re-establish manufacturing here in the US, creating jobs and helping those left behind by free trade agreements. And by building the physical wall and deporting illegal immigrants, the predominant thinking is that we will filter out undesirable people from our society.

I, however, see holes in this logic.

First, from the economic perspective, Mexico is our third largest trading partner. It seems an odd choice to simply cut off your third largest partner unless there is some dire threat. But there is no threat.

In fact, because many products come to us today from Mexico, the price we pay for those goods is significantly lower. If we build a wall and slap tariffs on goods shipped from Mexico, we are only hurting our middle class and low-income families because they will have to pay a higher price for goods than they would if the products were made in Mexico.

One might say that if we make the products here and avoid the tariffs, then our costs will be lower. But the facts simply don’t support that. Labor is more expensive here as is the cost of parts and materials. Carrier, for example, was going to pay Mexican workers a base pay of $3 per hour, which is $23 per hour less than its highest paid Indianapolis employees. So, logically, if it costs more to make the product here, then it will cost more to buy the product, and this does not benefit the Americans the wall is supposed to help.

Now some will argue that the higher prices are worth it if we create new jobs here in the US. Of course I would like to be hopeful about this, but I do not see manufacturing making a huge comeback here. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics seems to agree.

Manufacturing is expected to lose more jobs than any other sector through 2024 – approximately 814,000. This is primarily due to technologies such as robotics replacing the jobs once performed by humans. Also, as manufacturing becomes more technologically driven, companies cannot find US employees with the skills they need. In other words, the new jobs that are created in manufacturing will not be the same jobs these workers previously held. Therefore, if US workers have not learned new skills, then they will not likely find future employment in manufacturing.

We also need to remember that Mexico and other countries may reciprocate border taxes against the US; therefore, any goods we try to sell to Mexico will suffer the same fate. We should also be cognizant of the fact that the US is not Mexico’s only trading partner. If we pull out of trade with Mexico, we will leave a void in their economy that will need to be filled. I am certain that countries like China and Russia will be happy to fill the gap and personally, I don’t see any benefit of having China or Russia that close to the US.

Now from the migrant perspective, I first want to point out that in the past few years the US has seen more Mexican immigrants returning home to Mexico than we have seen entering the country. I think the perception is quite different, so I felt it was important to highlight this.

Regardless of that fact, I would argue that migrant workers, in general, are benefitting our society more than it is hurting us. Are there bad seeds? Of course there are. Let’s face it, most families have a bad seed let alone an entire ethnic group. But by and large Latinos appear to have had a very positive impact on our nation in recent years.

On one end of the spectrum, Latinos represent the most influential consumer segment since the baby boomers – estimated at a $1.5 trillion consumer market. That’s a lot of money to want to toss away.

But more importantly, Latinos are starting companies and creating jobs. Here is something to think about. During the Great Recession, Latino-owned businesses grew by 49.5 percent between 2007 and 2012, compared with a growth rate of less than 1 percent by non-Latino-owned business. Altogether, the 3.3 million Latino businesses in the US employ 2.3 million people and generate $473 billion in sales.

So instead of taking jobs away, they are actually creating jobs at a time when no one else in our country is.

And on the other end of the spectrum, migrant workers make up 72 percent of all US farm workers ; 68 percent of them were born in Mexico and nearly half of them are undocumented. But for a mere $13,700 per year on average for individuals and $18,700 for families (well below our poverty line), migrant farm workers help feed this nation. If the migrant farm workers are deported, our food system will be greatly damaged and hindered, resulting again in higher food prices that will be most felt by middle class and low-income families.

From my perspective, if you are creating jobs and putting food on America’s tables, then you are doing much more for this country than I am – and there is nothing undesirable about that.