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Trump’s approach to immigration bluntly seeks to exclude people who are nonwhite and poor. Witness the chaotic, brutal separation of children from parents, losing the identities of the parents so they can never be reunited. Witness the flat refusal to admit those seeking asylum, even though they have a right to a hearing. And witness the absurdity of returning Central American refugees to neighboring countries, supposedly “safe third countries” that in fact pose the same hazards as their home countries. Indeed, the United States bears a lot of responsibility for the deplorable conditions in these countries.

Progressive Immigration Policy

The administration also wants to deport people who have Green Cards, if they ever have or might in the future become “public charges,” that is, take advantage of programs like Food Stamps public housing, or Head Start.

Trump’s approach to immigrants is racist, callous and sadistic. It is unworthy of our ideals as a nation of immigrants.

Any country has a right to regulate immigration. That’s the principle. But the laws are not always consistent. If you come from Cuba by boat and set foot on US soil, you have a right to stay. If you do the same from Haiti, they’ll send you back.

We have a partisan impasse on immigration: Republicans want to stem the tide from Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean (except for the blessed Cubans); Democrats focus on the “Dreamers” who were brought here illegally as children, who have no memory of their home countries, who may not speak the language, and who have made successful lives here. Why not give the Dreamers a pathway to citizenship?

A progressive immigration policy starts with the premise that America is strengthened, not weakened by immigration. Every wave of immigrants began by confronting nativist discrimination, fear and hatred; each has in the end contributed its genius.

Important sectors of the economy (e.g., agriculture, tourism) have come to depend on immigrants who will do jobs that simply cannot be filled at any wage by non-immigrants. In California’s Central Valley, for example, the source of much of our fruits and vegetables, farmers say that, with their workers being deported, they cannot find enough workers to plant and harvest their crops.

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We can do better.

A progressive immigration policy starts with the premise that America is strengthened, not weakened by immigration. Every wave of immigrants began by confronting nativist discrimination, fear and hatred; each has in the end contributed its genius.

Three essential elements mark a progressive immigration policy.

First, end Trump’s inhumane and illegal asylum policy. Everyone who comes to this country seeking asylum from danger in their home country should be provisionally admitted and allowed to reside anywhere in the country pending a hearing. Petitioners should have the right to counsel. A realistic perspective on the conditions actually prevailing in the home country must be part of the evidence. Persons denied asylum should be permitted appeals through the federal court system, up to the Supreme Court. Those admitted to asylum should be eligible for citizenship on the same basis as regular immigrants.

Second, regular immigration should be systematically tied to known employment opportunities that correspond to the qualifications of the immigrants. Once they are legal residents, immigrants should have access to public services such as food stamps, public housing assistance, or unemployment compensation. Many past immigrants have gone through some hard times before successfully establishing themselves. We should facilitate that,

Third, we should welcome those who wish to study in our schools and universities, and should allow those who complete their studies successfully to establish legal residency and eligibility for citizenship. We should welcome their talents.

impeachment unavoidable

Thus will we finally honor Emma Lazarus’ immortal line: “I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”

John Peeler