Land of Opportunity

We spent billions to get others to tear down this wall, now propose billions more to build our own.A deputy sheriff straps on a gun, pins his badge over his shirt pocket, and goes on patrol. Probably, he will return home to his family. Millions of law enforcement officers do the same thing every day.

Most of them do not have to worry about being kicked out of the United States when their shift is over. Yet there he was, on duty and in uniform, on the evening news, telling of his concern that he might be deported if Congress cannot agree to allow so-called “Dreamers” to remain in the United States.

I’ve never understood how anyone who isn’t a citizen can serve in the defense of this nation and not be automatically made a citizen.

In the Navy, there were Filipinos who served as stewards. They wore the uniforms of regular U.S. Navy sailors and, in battle, could die as easily as U.S. Navy sailors. But they were not citizens of the United States.

How do we allow that situation to exist? Easily, it turns out. Most of us do not even recognize them as non-citizens, even when we see them. I didn’t. I noticed that the stewards – a Navy term for those who feed and clean up after high ranking officers – were mostly Filipinos, but I was nearing the end of my career before I finally twigged to the idea many, if not most, of them were not citizens of the nation they served.

We citizens are encouraged to think “Illegal Alien” is synonymous with “Mexican,” and a majority of DACA — Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals – recipients are from Mexico. But they also are from other Central American nations such as El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.

We are told they are murderers, though if they were, the same individual – who did, in fact, shoot a white family’s daughter – would not be the only case trotted out to “prove” how scared we should be of anyone with a Hispanic accent and browner skin than ours.

Like the stewards of my sailor days, those non-citizens are workers. They want, and thanks to DACA many have legally earned, an education. They are, as that news item last week showed, police officers standing between the rest of us and the real bad guys. They are computer programmers and accountants and in many cases, trusted to clean our swimming pools and mow our lawns.

Nearly one-third of them have been here since they were five years old. The average age is 25, the oldest 35. There could be as many as 1,500,000 of them, depending on who is counting– about the population of Philadelphia.

The deadline to settle their status keeps moving – currently, it is March 5 – for Congress to either make the Dreamers legal or kick them out. For it’s part, Congress appears prepared to milk the situation for all its members can, as long as they can.

They are, in truth, 535 followers, though a few try now and then to lead. If the voters become serious – either to make the Dreamers legal or send them away – that is what will happen. Congress is flexible, and really good at moving deadlines. There is no hurry.

But that is not fair to people who were brought here when they were too young to do anything other than what Mom and Dad directed. They have grown up and become supporters of the way of life we espouse. About one quarter of them are now parents of their own children. Deportation would simply split up another generation of parents and children.

Is that really what we mean by “Land of Opportunity.”

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