On Nov. 30, a group of nonpartisan organizations convened at the offices of the Rock Island ICE Detention Facilities, calling attention to the inhumane treatment of human beings seeking asylum as the “Central American Migrant Caravan” at the U.S. border, including the tear-gassing of men, women, and children.
There have been some ill-informed criticisms of our efforts, which we defend as a compassionate effort to educate the public about injustices committed by our current administration.
There are larger issues that also need to be addressed. Although our efforts were explicitly neither “Democrat” nor “Republican” in intent, this incident was met with a consistent and politically biased response.
We have seen time and time again that a contingent of Americans respond to repeated inhumanity committed by our current administration with responses like “Democrats have done bad too,” or “Why are you not protesting on behalf of homeless veterans?”
There is no compassion in deflecting attention away from current atrocities by making statements like these. Our nonpartisan organizations are committed to speaking out against injustice, regardless of the political party in power at the time.
We are also advocates for our homeless veterans, and are disheartened when defenders of the current administration use veteran service to our country for self-serving political opportunism, yet turn a blind eye when the current administration continues to cut funding for veterans.
We must also continue to reject the misconception that immigrants are “welfare recipients” and a drain on our social services. Accessing services in this country requires persons to show evidence of legal status.
Further, immigrant workers have taxes withheld from their paychecks to pay into Social Security, a program whose benefits they will never receive so long as they are not allowed a path to legal status. This is but one example of how immigrant workers give more to our country than they take away.
Our country can and must do better. This is not a partisan issue.
All persons of conscience need to conclude that if we have $200 million to spend in deploying troops to the border as a pre-election political ploy (the current White House admitted as much), we certainly have the resources to legally process asylum seekers at the border, to not jail or detain them, and to put resources into providing a path to citizenship for 11 million currently undocumented New Americans.
As protests will continue throughout the nation and globe this week in support of the Central American caravan, we ask all persons of faith and moral compass to avoid temptation to scapegoat and demonize these persons.
Instead, we ask all Americans to consider their humanity, and to spend time imagining what a true, humane and fair approach would look like.
And to call and write their legislators and demand that they act in a manner of dignity that shows respect to the human rights that our veterans have fought for in this country.