Our Opinion: Compromise immigration bill needed
Last Thursday, just after sunrise, dozens of federal officers outiftted in riot gear forcibly evicted protesters camped outside the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office on Southwest Macadam Avenue.
The showdown was inevitable. The protesters, who had showed up six days earlier, had vowed to stay. The officers had orders to reopen the federally operated building. But coming less than a week before Independence Day, the clash over our immigration policy seemed particularly poignant.
Thirty-two years ago today, President Ronald Reagan presided over the relighting of the torch of the refurbished Statue of Liberty. He talked about the generations of immigrants, from countless corners of the world, who the United States welcomed through that port of entry.
"What was it that tied these profoundly different people together?" Reagan asked. "What was it that made them not a gathering of individuals, but a nation? That bond that held them together, as it holds us together tonight, that bond that has stood every test and travail, is found deep in our national consciousness: an abiding love of liberty.
"They were the men and women who labored all their lives so that their children would be well-fed, clothed and educated, the families that went through great hardship yet kept their honor, their dignity, and their faith in God."
That desire for freedom has not abated in the years since the statue was first dedicated in 1886, with Emma Lazarus' sonnet, New Colossus, included on a plaque, its last lines serving as an invitation to all who sought refuge here.
"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
President Trump has been quick to characterize many of those who currently seek entry to our country as refuse (or worse), and instead of a welcome mat, he has offered steel bars.
The president's penchant for demonizing immigrants is not new. But his decision to criminally prosecute everyone caught crossing the southwest border outside official checkpoints and separate children from parents proved to be too much.
As protesters gathered at ICE facilities across the country, members of his own party, such as Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, called on the president to "end this policy," while the United Nations condemned it as a violation of international law.
Trump eventually gave in, but only partially. His zero-tolerance stance still holds and his compromise is to now jail families together, rather than separately.
The episode reveals the desperate need for a sensible immigration policy that protects America's historic role (with some notable, unfortunate deviations) of being a destination for those fleeing oppression, as is the case for many of those flocking to our southern border.
We agree with the president that the current system set up to handle requests for asylum is flawed.
But rather than allow the current practice of putting asylum seekers behind bars and authorizing $25 billion for a border wall, Congress should push to remove the backlog of cases in immigration courts and seek funds to speed up the process of getting an asylum hearing.
We call on our state's congressional delegation, Democrats and the lone Republican, to work toward a compromise immigration reform bill, rather than simply make this a wedge issue for the fall campaigns.
And Congress and President Trump should ensure that Dreamers — those brought here illegally as children — should be able to stay in the only country they've known as home.
Since the time President Reagan rededicated Lady Liberty and reaffirmed our role as offering a "golden door" to those fleeing oppression, an estimated 11,000 Dreamers have arrived in Oregon, and the state has welcomed more than 47,000 legal refugees. In recent years, most have come from Ukraine, Somalia, Cuba, Iraq and Afghanistan, fleeing countries where their government is unable or unwilling to protect them from persecution.
As we prepare to celebrate Independence Day, we should remember that we are largely a nation of immigrants, many of whom arrived tired and poor only to rise up and contribute to our communities.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.