I spent a couple of hours Thursday at the after school program at the RISSE after school program, now in danger because federal government tuition subsidies for the refugee and immigrant children are being eliminated so that wealthy corporations can get huge tax cuts.
It doesn't seem like any of that money is trickling down to these kids or their parents. No one at RISSE has reported any kind of pay raise, and many have two or three jobs.
As the immigration debate gets uglier and more intense by the day in Washington, I look at these kids and can't help thinking about how they are the targets, they are precisely what so many people and politicians in American want to keep out of our country.
If these new laws are passed, we will not see children like this again in our country, and once taken away, it can not be taken back.
They are neither white nor from wealthy, blue-eyed families. They come from the "Shithole" World, from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, and the war-ravaged countries of Africa.
They are the lottery people, the people the government wants to ban and keep out of our country.
The lottery refugees are just what they sound like, they are chosen by United Nations refugee officials by lottery, most of their parents have been in refugee camps for years, even decades. Many have died there.
The system was created to be democratic and fair. The idea was America was not only open to the rich, but the poor and downtrodden too.
Wealthy and skilled people were permitted to emigrate in great numbers, but to be fair and democratic, the system would also be open to these kids and their parents: ordinary, working class, even poor people in desperate need. The process of admission to the United States is grueling and thorough. These people are not lazy or ignorant, they are the victims of war, genocide, natural catastrophes, civil war.
They did not bring ruin upon their own heads, they have suffered natural and human catastrophe through no fault of their own. As Americans in Housing and California and Florida learned this year, it can happen to anybody, even us. At such times we call on ourselves to be merciful and compassionate, that is what it means to me to be an American. It could easily have been me or you.
The anti-immigration officials make it sound as if all kinds of terrorists and thieves and rapists are pouring in, but these families are subject to extreme vetting by at least four different federal agencies. They are examined one-on-one, exhaustively and repeatedly , they are given exhaustive writing exams, their lives and social media combed over by special agents, they must fill out hundreds of pages of paperwork and wait years before coming here.
When they get here, they are given small subsidies for 90 days, and then their only assistance is agencies like RISSE, non-profit groups scattered across the country, with little money and overwhelmed resources.
There, they go to learn English, to put their kids in after school classes, learn how to look for work, pay taxes, fill out driver's license and school registration forms, where they can learn English, get healthy food, play and work and learn computing together.
None of these kids would ever get into our country if this new Draconian legislation is passed, they would languish in dangerous and overcrowded and underfunded camps for much of their lives. Our system will – as our leaders admit – will no longer be democratic or open, it will look for wealthy and white immigrants from prosperous and "safe" countries.The families of these refugees will be left behind, they will never be able to come her or be re-united with their loved ones. They call it "chain immigration: but to people whose lives have always been centered on family, it is yet another horror for them to bear.
As if we don't have enough rich people here. How much richer to the rich people here need to get?
One does not need to be an FBI agent to go to agencies like RISSE and meet these people. To meet them is to love them and admire them.
They are intensely hard-working, idealistic, loving people, they want nothing more than to give their children good lives. It chews my heart up to think that none of the good people I meet would ever get out of those refugee camps if the so-called white nationalists get their quite apparent way and seek to make our country all white and Christian again.
So I hope to continue to meet these people and tell their stories, they are no threat to us, they work harder than anyone to make the lives of their children better, that is what refugees coming to America have done for centuries, and they have built a great, wealthy and powerful country over time.
Did I miss something? Did those generations of refugees fail us, ruin us, endanger us?
I pray to the good angels that these people and so many like them are not abandoned by the country that embraced them for so long, and saved and uplifted to many lives. That is what it's about for me. I hope we can see through hatred and lies and ignorance.
I believe we can. I believe we will.