Opinion: America’s Soul

By former Assemblyman Steven Sanders

America is not perfect, never was, never will be. After all, we are a reflection of the collective us, some 325 million imperfect human beings. But each generation has tried to learn by the mistakes of the previous ones and aspires to make this nation a more perfect union, and worthy of the lofty words of our founders. To be a beacon of hope for the downtrodden and to secure for our neighbors the inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

 We are a nation of immigrants, by definition. We came here from Europe, then Asia and later from countries south of our border. Sadly the distant relatives of many of our black neighbors arrived from Africa in bondage to be sold as slaves. That stain on our history is one that we are still trying to come to grips with. Most of us have parents or grandparents who were born in other countries and traveled to these shores seeking a better life. And all of us have ancestors who were new Americans at one time. That diversity has been considered a national strength.

 Immigration and the limits of American welcoming generosity has always been up for discussion. Surely every nation needs to have policies to accept new citizens. There is no dispute about that. However, the actions of the president last week is one that undermines all that we have stood for as a nation for over 240 years, the proposition that America is a place of fairness and compassion and that America stands for justice and just policies.

 There are nearly one million children and young adults who were brought into this country by their parents who were fleeing oppression or just seeking a decent life in a land that offered opportunity to anyone willing to work for it. These people and their children were not here lawfully…but they have lived lawfully and have contributed to our society. The children were dubbed “Dreamers.” That is appropriate because they are here dreaming of a future that could be found nowhere else. For many of these young people America is the only place they have ever really known. For all intents and purposes this is their country too.

 But because Congress was unable to pass comprehensive immigration reform laws, these people were at risk of being summarily sent back to their country of origin, but in truth a foreign land. President Obama recognized their plight in particular and created a program which would protect them from deportation so long as they remained responsible and stayed away from trouble. And almost every one of them fulfilled their end of the bargain. They became educated and went to college or took on a trade. Some joined the military and others made community service contributions. All of them dream of becoming part of the American success story. All of them deserve that chance.

 They are your neighbor’s children. They are your children’s classmates. They are innocent of any transgression other than being the child of a parent who was desperate to find refuge in the land of the free and the home of the brave. To find a place where they and their children could live without repression, violence and fear. What parent does not understand that urgency?

 To save these children is to save the soul and the essence of this nation. For if this government proceeds to do what President Trump decreed, which is to exile innocent children and young adults if Congress does not muster the will to pass a law, then we need to ask ourselves just who are we? What does America stand for in the 21st century?

 Politicians like to talk about America’s “exceptionalism.” Now our representatives in Washington D.C. have a chance to make that ideal a reality by proving that America is still the place that Thomas Jefferson described as mankind’s last best hope. Perhaps President Kennedy said it best, “here on earth God’s work must truly be our own.”

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