Many religions and many sets of ethical behavior hold up the value of being welcoming to the stranger. For those who pursue kindness in life, turning back immigrants without regard for their human dignity and needs is at odds with this pursuit. To ignore the tensions immigration places on a government overlooks realities, but as people we are called to deal with those tensions in a humane manner. To boil down immigration policy to a this or that choice between people who are qualified for high-skill jobs versus service jobs or to people who are from one area of the world versus another or to a restriction built around keeping out extended family overlooks who we are as people. We need help from people up and down the skill ladder. We all do better when we are in community with people we love and who love us. Yet, we need diversity, too, not just known people of our particular “tribe,” so that we are learning to open our minds and hearts to new expressions of experience. Public safety is one matter: it involves vetting and security measures, so that dangerous criminals aren’t invited in, putting their new neighbors at risk. Immigration standards and invitations to live here or stay here for those who already are living here successfully are another matter. I continue to hope for a United States that welcomes people from around the world. We will be a better place for it.
George W. Bush said in his eulogy of John McCain, “He was honorable, always recognizing that his opponents were still patriots and human beings. He loved freedom, with the passion of a man who knew its absence. He respected the dignity inherent in every life, a dignity that does not stop at borders and cannot be erased by dictators. Perhaps above all, John detested the abuse of power. He could not abide bigots and swaggering despots.” These are fine words, and now, what we need are fine policies. In his final statement to the nation delivered posthumously through family spokesman Rick Davis, John McCain had written, “We weaken our greatness when we confuse our patriotism with tribal rivalries that have sown resentment and hatred and violence in all the corners of the globe. We weaken it when we hide behind walls, rather than tear them down, when we doubt the power of our ideals, rather than trust them to be the great force for change they have always been.” David Leonardt concluded in his Op-ed piece in today’s New York Times, “the congressional Republicans inside the Washington National Cathedral on Saturday would surely say they came to honor John McCain. But they were there for show. Faced with a choice, they have rejected McCain’s America for Trump’s.” Whether one prefers on political party’s strategies over another, there are common outcomes we should all want, outcomes that aren’t achieved by simple either/or approaches. Taking the border wall as an example, early on in its debut as a campaign platform piece for Donald Trump, experts with knowledge of security and logistics pointed to concerns about the efficiency of a solid wall strategy, even before getting to the bad symbolic messaging that comes from trying to wall ourselves off from others. Yes, people in both parties, regardless of their stances on immigration, want safety that comes from barring as we can cartel action from spreading across the border and from barring other proven violence that puts people at risk. Yet misspending our economic resources on an extended wall when we could be improving our overall vetting and processing system as well as investing in up-to-date surveillance technology creates not only waste, but also lost opportunity to improve all people’s safety, while respecting all people’s human dignity.