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In the shadow of the Administration’s attempts to sue the State and Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ stern admonitions to the Governor and to communities around the state to not interfere with Federal efforts to deport immigrants, I would like to offer the following interview I recently had with the author of what very well may become the anthem of the sanctuary movement. Don Arbor is from Northern California and his latest offering is a clarion call to rekindle our nation’s commitment to welcoming diversity not shunning it.

sanctuary state

As we sift through the tumultuous and chaotic policy meanderings of the Trump administration in-depth analysis of any particular issue inevitably gives way to the latest breaking news that appears in seemingly hourly bursts. Immigration is an issue that Congress and the White House have been wrestling with for decades and our checkered past is testament to a long history of struggles with how best to deal with one basic fact: namely, we are a nation of immigrants.

I had the opportunity to engage in a discussion with accomplished singer, song-writer Don Arbor recently about his latest project, Everyone Comes From Somewhere, a song inspired by a conversation he had with his mother’s caregiver, an immigrant from Guyana.

I had the opportunity to engage in a discussion with accomplished singer, song-writer Don Arbor recently about his latest project, Everyone Comes From Somewhere, a song inspired by a conversation he had with his mother’s caregiver, an immigrant from Guyana. He was so inspired by her story that he felt compelled to add to the national dialogue by doing what he does, writing and singing songs.

We did not delve into his political beliefs, but as a fellow Baby Boomer it was not difficult to detect a disdain for the current occupant of the White House and the mean-spiritedness of his rhetoric towards immigrants. If the title of his newest effort does not give this away, certainly the sentiments expressed in its lyrics does.

Most basic to the issue is the idea that immigration has proven and will continue to prove to be a positive and constructive force in the advance of human civilization, economically, spiritually, and educationally. Further inspiration derives from Maya Angelou’s poem, Human Family, that Mr. Arbor quoted “I note the obvious differences/between each sort and type/but we are more alike, my friends,/than we are unalike.

And as we experience an awakening of activism around issues such as mass shootings and sexual harassment now may be a time when the true engine of reform in a representative democratic government may actually be driven by the people. Certainly the activism of a long dormant youth movement and the energy of the MeToo movement, driven by women’s concerns over institutional sexism, portend a new ray of hope that the winds of change may topple a dysfunctional and rigged political system that has offered roadblocks to the inevitability of demographic shifts that are and will continue to signal the triumph of diversity.

Whether this happens, of course, will depend upon the persistence of the resistance and a political involvement that will result in massive changes at all levels of government, Federal, State, and local. The interview that follows offers hope for a new tomorrow.

Why is immigration important?

sanctuary state

I believe that immigration is more than "important;" it is the very foundation of our nation, and the reason for our long-standing leadership role in the world. We grow as individuals, and as a country, when we welcome people from other cultures and weave them into the fabric of our society. This growth is, and always has been, multifaceted: we become more enlightened by learning how we are alike in many ways. We experience economic growth from immigration. We benefit from the amazing variety of artistic endeavors that immigrants bring with them from their homelands. These benefits have accrued from every wave of immigrants throughout our history, and they continue to the present moment. While we have our flaws, and we have not always lived up to the ideals inscribed at the base of the Statue of Liberty, those ideals are as valuable and relevant as ever.

Is Trump wrong to build a wall to protect us from the “bad hombres” he claims Mexico sends across the border?

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The wall is wrong on every level. First of all, the Mexicans who come to the US have been shown to be less involved in criminal activities than native born US citizens, and even the National Academy of Sciences agrees. Are undocumented immigrants less likely to commit crime? So, even if the wall worked, the effect would be to keep out predominantly peaceful and productive people seeking a better life, not to keep out "bad hombres." Second, there is little chance that the wall would succeed in its ostensible mission to keep people out, since those who are motivated to get in will find other ways. Third, the cost of its construction would never be borne by Mexico, as its leaders have made clear, so billions of US taxpayer dollars would be committed to this folly, while spending would be reduced for projects of real importance, like rebuilding our schools and crumbling highways and bridges. Finally, I believe that the true purpose of the wall is to serve as a physical symbol of the division that Trump promotes every day with his tweets that demean and insult immigrants (the non-Norwegian kind), minorities and people of color. This is the greatest wrong of all, because the divisions he sows are at least as great a danger to the nation's well-being as any external threat.

Is diversity a function of advancing a prosperous society?

I am not enough of an expert to know how diversity impacts the prosperity of other nations. But I do see diversity as a strength and requirement for the prosperity of the USA. Everyone from Obama to Forbes Magazine agrees that immigrants are key to economic growth. Scapegoating immigrants for the problem of job loss in rust belt states is just as false and divisive as conflating law-abiding DACA Dreamers with the MS-13 gangs. Again, wrong on every level, and most egregious because it is so divisive and corrosive. For examples of diverse views on immigrants and promotion of prosperity, see:

What happens if we curtail immigration, with respect to the family of man?

In my view, we diminish our opportunities to learn from each other, to grow together, and to evolve into a more empathic and productive society. Despite all our flaws, the USA remains a destination of choice for many immigrants, because of that tantalizing-yet-unfulfilled promise.

Is this song meant to be an anthem to the millennials, i.e. signs of activism among our youth vis-a-vis mass shootings, MeToo?

It was not written with any age group or demographic in mind, but rather as a statement of my personal views that so far seem to be resonating with others of diverse backgrounds. I would like the song to reach across age barriers, and I hope that its positive message of our common humanity—"Everyone Comes from Somewhere," after all—will transcend political lines, to the extent that remains possible. (As John Lennon once sang, "You may say I'm a Dreamer...").

As for the activism of youth, I am hopeful that such activism can stir the latent sentiments of older folks who have seen their ideals suffer such a mixed fate over the years. But the real test will come in November, when we see whether the backlash against divisiveness and hate can flip either or both of the House and Senate, to interpose a roadblock between the President and his regressive goals.

As for the MeToo Movement, I don't see that as particularly associated with millennials; the women who have spoken out span the age brackets. I hope that the MeToo Movement will grow and succeed, with the support of men who accept and respect women as equals in all ways. But it is hard to think of the Movement as truly successful until the Groper-in-Chief is no more than a bad memory. Actually, one more reason for hope is that women who are so justifiably offended by having this President are finding their anger sufficient motivation to run for office, to protest, and to vote. In some cases, those factors will tip the scales toward progressive candidates rather than reactionaries.

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Lance Simmens

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