Tag Archives: refugees

What? Right-wing Amarillo bucks governor’s refugee ban?

How about that New York Times, for my money the greatest newspaper in the nation if not the world? It is reporting that Amarillo, Texas, the unofficial “capital city” of the right-wing Texas Panhandle is taking a dim view of Gov. Greg Abbott’s decision to ban refugees from settling in Texas.

We used to live in Amarillo. We had a wonderful life there. We are forging a new wonderful life in the Metroplex. But I was fully aware of Amarillo’s reputation as a hotbed for far right-wing political thought. The NY Times article suggests a latent reservoir of good will. God bless Amarillo and the NY Times.

The article cites how Amarillo has been a magnet for refugees for many years. Many refugees have become part of the community. They contribute to the community’s life. They have been embraced by their neighbors. They call themselves Americans.

Abbott, though, has issued an order that declared that Texas would become the first state in the Union to opt out of a presidential edict that gives states the option of accepting or rejecting refugees; Abbott has shut the door on new refugees.

That ain’t the American — or the Texan — way, governor. The Times article spells out how Amarillo has opened its door — not to mention its heart — to those who have ventured to the Panhandle, which the Times article describes as a somewhat desolate, wind-swept, dusty place.

As the Times reports: Here in Amarillo, which for a time took in more refugees per capita than any other Texas city, few share the governor’s alarm over refugees, and those who do have a far more nuanced view. They have long lived with refugees, not as abstract political talking points, but as neighbors.

Refugee Services of Texas and Catholic Charities of the Texas Panhandle have taken on the refugee issue head-on, helping resettle 7,000 individuals from 2007 to 2017, the Times reports.

The article makes me proud of the city my wife and I called home for more than two decades.

Here is the full article in the New York Times.

Amarillo will remain a stronghold of support for Donald Trump and for Gov. Abbott. It is full of many fine individuals who understand that they live in a place that serves as a beacon for those who need a refuge from oppression and tyranny

Oh, the irony of Gov. Abbott’s refugee rejection

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, along with other governors, had the opportunity to “opt in” on an executive order issued by Donald Trump to allow refugees into our state.

He chose to opt out. Gov. Abbott has slammed the door on individuals and families who, by definition, are seeking refuge in Texas as they flee repression, violence, crime, corruption and physical harm in their home country.

I am trying to wrap my noodle around this decision. I am left only to ponder the profound irony of Abbott’s decision, making Texas the first state to opt out of Trump’s executive order.

The irony? Oh, well, we have this historical fact: Our nation came into being in the 18th century because men who had fled religious oppression in Europe had come across a vast ocean to form a republic that would become known as “the land of the free,” the “land of opportunity” and “a beacon of liberty” for the rest of the world.

It looks that in Texas at least, the door has been shut to those seeking freedom and opportunity and that the beacon has been turned off.

Abbott’s decision, quite naturally, has drawn plenty of criticism. As it should. To be honest, the governor’s refusal to opt in to the federal order is disappointing in the extreme. He has sought to say that the state should allow those who already are here to remain as refugees. But what about those who continue to suffer human rights abuses in nations south of us?

This is a very distressing decision by Gov. Abbott.

I cannot prove this, of course, but my hunch is that our nation’s founders would be unhappy beyond measure.

Texas won’t take refugees? Shameful decision!

Critics of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott are understandably outraged over a decision by the state.

Abbott has decided that Texas will not participate in a federal refugee resettlement program, which around 40 other governors — from both political parties — have agreed to do.

I am profoundly disappointed in Gov. Abbott’s decision to opt out of the resettlement effort.

By definition, refugees are those who are fleeing terrible living conditions. They seek to enter the United States because, for varying reasons, they fear for their well-being in their native countries.

Many of those on the far right declare fealty to their religious faith. They are chiefly Christians who adhere to the Jesus Christ’s teachings.

Sigh.

I cannot find a single New Testament passage that suggests Jesus would approve of any effort to turn away the dispossessed, the downtrodden, those who are fleeing repression.

According to the Texas Tribune: Abbott said the state and nonprofit organizations should concentrate resources on those already here, according to a letter the governor sent to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

This is not the action of a compassionate government with leaders who proclaim themselves as caring about their fellow human beings.

Welcome to America . . . just bring your gas mask

You’re a refugee fleeing repression in a Latin American country. You trek to the southern border of the Land of Opportunity. You and your kids, maybe with your elderly parents, are greeted by U.S. Army soldiers and Marines.

Then you get gassed. Those troops deployed by the commander in chief are under orders to prevent everyone from entering the United States. One way to keep you out is to gas you.

This is no way, none at all, to manage the border. It is no way to prevent illegal immigration. The refugees who are seeking safe harbor from the tyrants who run their countries back “home” deserve something far better, more kind than what they’re receiving.

I have tasted tear gas. It got my snootful twice while training at Fort Lewis, Wash., in the summer and fall of 1968 in the U.S. Army. It really and truly sucks, man. The second douse came while I was low-crawling under barbed wire. Our sergeants popped a nausea agent. Yep . . . I puked!

This is how we intend to “greet” those who seek protection from those who would do them harm. Wow! I never would have thought I would see this happening in our country.

Appalling!

Non-politician POTUS earns his political chops rapidly

I have to hand it to Donald J. Trump. He campaigned for president as a non-politician, a self-made zillionaire who would surround himself with the “best people.”

Where do we stand? He’s been shown to be far from self-made and his “best people” have let the country down repeatedly during his time as president.

As for the non-politician thing, Trump is showing he’s a far better politician than he let on. Take this nonsensical notion of sending 5,200 active-duty military personnel to the southern border to block the horde of “invaders” traveling north from Latin America.

The “caravan” is dwindling by the hour. It’s still a long way from the southern border. Its numbers might not even be half the size of the force Trump is ordering to the new “front.”

However, the president is managing to whip up a frenzy among his base of supporters, he is energizing Republicans in advance of next Tuesday’s midterm election and he’s scaring the bejabbers out of Americans who actually believe the crap he spews about “Middle Eastern” terrorists infiltrating the massive crowd of invaders.

Trump is acting totally within his legal authority as commander in chief. He isn’t the first president to do such a thing. Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama dispatched National Guard troops to help secure the border during their administrations. Trump’s order is a bit different. He is ordering active-duty ground troops to the border. The issue, though, is simply: Why? To do what, precisely?

These individuals are fleeing some of the most repressive regimes imaginable. El Salvador, Honduras, Belize and Guatemala are known to be cesspools of corruption and violence.

Yet the president refers to many of them, as he did on Fox News the other day, as young and sturdy men who are coming here to do … what? To rape our women? To commit various and sundry acts of violence against unsuspecting Americans?

This troop deployment is all a political stunt.

‘Middle Easterners’ in the caravan mix?

Donald J. “Fearmonger in Chief” Trump is at it again.

He said the “caravan” of refugees heading for our nation’s southern border contains “criminals” and “unknown Middle Easterners.” Does the president have any evidence of it?

Of course not! He never produces evidence of anything when he makes these bellicose assertions. It makes his crowds cheer. It fires him up. He speaks the language that his “base” understands and to which it is drawn.

The unknown Middle East component, of course, harkens back to 9/11 and the view being promoted by those on the far right that the Middle East is populated by millions of Muslims who “hate America” and will do whatever they can to do harm to Americans.

So now, according to Trump, they’re slipping into the crowd of Latin American refugees and are heading toward our soft underbelly.

I wish I had an answer to what we should do when that “caravan” arrives along our Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California borders. I don’t.

I do not believe the president is helping quell the fear of many Americans by suggesting — without attribution — the notion that the refugees are full of criminals and “Middle Easterners.”

No. Donald Trump is stoking the fear. That’s what he does. It is how he rolls.

Blog is taking wing … so to speak

Syrian internally displaced people walk in the Atme camp, along the Turkish border in the northwestern Syrian province of Idlib, on March 19, 2013. The conflict in Syria between rebel forces and pro-government troops has killed at least 70,000 people, and forced more than one million Syrians to seek refuge abroad. AFP PHOTO/BULENT KILIC        (Photo credit should read BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images)

I don’t consider full-time blogging to be actual work.

It’s more like therapy for me. It keeps me engaged to the best of my ability, which I suppose depends on whether you agree with the opinions expressed in this forum.

So, when I decide to take a vacation, I like taking High Plains Blogger with me. Where I go with my wife, the laptop comes along and the blog keeps spewing out musings on this and/or that.

OK. So, here we go.

My wife, myself and the blog are getting set to take wing.

We’re heading soon for Germany and The Netherlands. We have friends in Bavaria — the pretty region of Germany — and in The Netherlands we intend to see. I’m going to get caught up with these folks, one of whom I met on a journalist field trip to Taipei, Taiwan in 2010, the others I met while traveling through Israel on a month-long Rotary International Group Study Exchange trip in 2009.

I have a couple of burning questions I’m going to ask people I meet during our stay in Western Europe.

*I want to know about the Middle East refugee situation in both countries. We keep hearing on this side of The Pond about the “flood” of refugees fleeing the civil war in Syria. What has been the impact of their arrival? Is it the “crisis” that we’ve been told it is? And what is the state of the nationalist fervor that appears to be building, particularly in Germany?

*The second question is a bit more straightforward. What’s the feeling in Europe about the state of the U.S. presidential election that’s going to pick up a serious head of steam. Particularly, what do the Europeans think of Donald J. Trump’s nomination by the Republican Party to be its candidate for president of the United States? I will do my level best to set my own bias aside as I glean the views of our German and Dutch hosts. Rest assured: We’ll talk also about Hillary Rodham Clinton.

There is likely to be some more local color I’d like to provide as well.

Neither my wife and I have been to Germany or The Netherlands — although we did stop once in Frankfurt, Germany to change planes en route home from Athens in 2001. I don’t count airport stops, you know?

I am anxious to see my friends. I also am anxious to enjoy the sights, smells and sounds of cultures that are much older than ours.

What’s more, I am anxious to obtain — to the extent I am able — a broader world view of the chaos that’s about to unfold in my own country as we make up our minds on who’s going to become the next Leader of the Free World.

Come to think of it, I might even ask Europeans whether they hold the U.S. president in such high regard.

Internet proves, um, wrong!

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Back in the day — when I toiled at a daily newspaper — I actually had the following exchange with a reader of the paper who had submitted a letter to the editor and asked me to publish it.

Me: Are you sure about your facts here? This stuff looks kind of fishy to me.

Reader: Of course I’m sure. It’s the truth. I got it on the Internet.

Suffice to say we didn’t publish the individual’s letter.

The Internet is a lot of things. The purveyor of the whole truth all the time, though, is not one of them.

Breitbart.com posted a story that has Amarillo abuzz with concern. It describes the city as a haven for Middle East refugees and that the city is being “overrun” by them.

Not so, says Mayor Paul Harpole.

I’ve got to give Amarillo Globe-News reporter Kevin Welch huge props for exposing this nonsense.

Harpole said the city is working to control all immigrants, which include refugees. The issue isn’t limited to just those fleeing bloodshed and misery in the Middle East.

But according to the Welch’s story, Brietbart.com and some other conservative websites are disseminating bogus “information” about the state of affairs in little ol’ Amarillo, Texas.

It’s been a given for years that Amarillo has been a magnet of sorts for immigrants. Community faith-based and secular organizations have done a lot over the years to welcome immigrants, as Welch reported.

The city, though, isn’t being swarmed, swamped and swallowed up by hordes of refugees, as some Internet sites have said.

The fallacy of this kind of alleged “reporting” contains several lessons.

One of them ought to become required of all who consume news and commentary. It is that the Internet is a source for fiction far more frequently than it is a source for fact.

 

We are a nation of refugees

founders

The debate over how — or whether — to welcome refugees to our land is continuing at full throttle.

It is dismaying to hear talk from presidential candidates that we should slam the door shut on Syrians — or Muslims — out of fear that some of them might be terrorists intent on harming Americans.

President Obama has declared several times, “That’s not who we are.”

Well, who are we?

By my reckoning, we are a nation founded and built by refugees.

You’ve learned about these individuals. They sailed to the New World to flee religious and political oppression. They came here in search of a new life. They encountered the indigenous population here and were met with mixed feelings by their new “hosts.”

The refugees persevered throughout most of the 17th century and into the 18th century. They rebelled eventually against the empire from which they had fled. They launched a revolution. The fighting ended in 1781 and a nation was created.

Those refugees then crafted a government built on a document that specified certain things. One of them would be that they would apply no religious test for those seeking political office.

However, some politicians today actually have said in the current climate that people of a certain religion are not “qualified” to seek public office. That’s not who we are, either.

Do we intend to live in fear? Are we doing to forsake the very principles on which those first refugees founded this great nation?

How about we take a break, look inward at just who we are as a people — as a nation?

How might those first refugees think of what has happened to their descendants and their reaction to world events?

 

Immigrant tide is reversing itself

citizenship

The world remains focused on events in, say, Syria and Europe.

However, get a load of this item: More Mexican citizens returned to their home country over a five-year period than came into the United States.

The Pew Research Center said that from 2009 to 2014, more than 1 million Mexicans returned home while 870,000 of them came to the United States.

Does that change the debate in this country? Quite possibly.

Presidential candidates — particularly some of them on the Republican side — have made immigration a theme of the upcoming White House campaign.

I’m not at all sure what the trend suggests. Pew is a reliable research outfit, with findings that are well-documented. One theory being kicked around is that the Great Recession of 2008-09 in the United States removed an incentive for Mexican citizens to come to the United States in search of jobs.

The inflow of migrants could increase as the U.S. economy continues to improve, according to Mark Hugo Lopez, a Hispanic researcher for Pew. According to USA Today, “In coming years, he said, the number of Mexicans may increase again if the U.S. economy continues to improve. But steady growth of Mexico’s economy and tighter controls along the southwest border mean the United States won’t see another massive wave of legal and illegal immigration like it did in recent decades, when the number of Mexican-born immigrants ballooned from 3 million to nearly 13 million, he said.”

Lopez added that the era of Mexican migration might be at an end.

So, while our attention is diverted to places far away, we see some interesting trends right at our doorstep.

Don’t look for critics of U.S. immigration policy to proclaim this as good news. Indeed, if foreign nationals anywhere in the world can find prosperity at home, well, that reduces the strain on the Land of Opportunity.

I consider that to be good news.