Editorial: Urging support and compassion for immigrants
The Post Independent continues to stand in support of immigrants — especially now that Americans have elected a president whose campaign was rife with anti-immigrant rhetoric and threatened mass deportation of those here illegally.
We compliment Roaring Fork School District Superintendent Rob Stein for his quick move last week to begin discussions about a coordinated response from those who deal directly with immigrant families and organizations that might offer support and assistance.
We support this effort. In a county where roughly a third of residents and half of our schoolchildren are Latino, it is critically important to understand that many of these neighbors are legal U.S. residents and citizens. It also is critical to understand their importance to our region’s economy and communities.
Mike Kaplan, president and chief executive officer of Aspen Skiing Co., wrote in a Post Independent guest opinion that, “Our business embraces and respects our hard-working Latino employees, without whom we could not operate.”
Without whom we could not operate. Without whom this region would lose future leaders now in our public schools and studying at Colorado Mountain College, or at other schools with intention to return. Without whom we would lose volunteers in our schools. Without whom we would lose cultural diversity that helps prepare our children for life in the real America that evenly split its votes between President-elect Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.
Do not misunderstand. We say this about the popular vote total not to question the legitimacy of Trump’s election. He won. He voiced deep fears and frustration for working-class Americans who have been largely ignored by both political parties. We cite the close vote total to remind those on both sides that it may be wise to be gracious and to respect the differences of opinion in the country.
The things our president-elect said about immigrants during the campaign cannot be unsaid, and the fear and uncertainty he created among families is real. Perhaps worse is that he emboldened some supporters — some, not most — to voice racist views. In some instances, children who heard their parents say these things have taken them to school and taunted immigrant classmates.
By the same token, children whose parents evidently supported Clinton have been mean to students who have expressed support for Trump, which is equally inappropriate.
It appears that Trump may be backing away from his campaign rhetoric threatening to deport 11 million human beings who entered the country illegally over a period of decades, many as children who have known no other home. Targeted at Mexican immigrants, whom in kicking off his campaign Trump tarred as drug dealers and rapists, actually carrying out the plan would bloat the deficit, cause an economic crash and go down in history as an epic humanitarian disaster.
We can’t afford that by any measure, and Trump now is listing deportation of an estimated 2 million criminal aliens as a priority, which is not much different than the Obama administration approach that has resulted in record numbers of deportations.
Trump’s priorities make no mention — yet anyway — of his campaign plan to oust everyone here illegally, which the conservative American Action Forum estimated would cost $400 billion to $600 billion and cause real gross domestic product to drop 5.7 percent — compared with 4.3 percent during the Great Recession.
House Speaker Paul Ryan on Sunday said, “We are not planning on erecting a deportation force. Donald Trump’s not planning on that.”
We hope that holds.
To be clear, the Post Independent favors a path to citizenship for people who are living here lawfully and for others already here who follow appropriate procedures to gain legal status. We favor deporting felons, but doing all the country can not to break up families. We like Republican Colorado Sen. Corey Gardner’s support for finding a way to allow immigrants who arrived illegally as children to stay.
Of course we do not condone entering the country illegally. We think this is a perfect time, with net immigration from Mexico at about zero, to devise a rational policy for future immigration and to fairly and compassionately deal with 11 million people already here.
These folks, for the most part, pay taxes but receive few if any benefits. Many, especially those brought to the United States as children, have only scant ties to their native lands, and some would face persecution and death if they returned.
If mass deportation is off the table — and we hope Ryan is right — immigration policy and rhetoric still matter. Many researchers, engineers, doctors and other needed professionals working in the United States and saving American lives were born elsewhere and came here to study, work and make their lives.
If America is unwelcoming, many won’t come, and the country suffers a loss of future talent. (Current immigrant leaders, for example, include the founder of Yahoo, the CEO of PepsiCo, our incoming first lady, a Google co-founder, the owner of Fox News’ parent and many more.)
On the far opposite end of our view are people who say that the original sin of entering the United States illegally is irredeemable and unforgivable, and people who did so must be deported to their homeland.
We simply disagree — which is still OK in the America we love. We will stand up for our neighbors who happen to have been born elsewhere who enrich our communities and underpin our economy.
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