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Allan Herschlag: Council should have loudly condemned border separation policy



For the Monitor
Thursday, July 12, 2018

How we treat others reflects more on us than them. At our recent city council meeting I asked if it would be appropriate for the city council to collectively sign a statement denouncing the Trump administration’s recent policy of separating children from those who crossed our borders illegally. I cannot fathom how it was determined that breaking the law of entering the country illegally with no other charged criminal activity could justify a policy to separate children from parents.

So let me be clear. I do believe we have the right to control our borders. I do believe we can and should set policies as to whom we permit to come into our country. I do believe someone who enters the country illegally and cannot show cause as to why they chose that route should anticipate being sent back to their country of origin. But I do not believe it warrants taking their children from them.

I do believe that in the past, those who came to the country illegally and were hired by employers had an impact in lowering wages for American workers. Whether there were those willing to work in those jobs isn’t the question for me. What concerned me is that having an underground economy led to both the abuse of those working and the suppression of wages in those fields. So when caught who was punished? The workers or the employers?

Does having foreign workers legally entering the country and working here automatically suppress wages? Not necessarily. But like our immigration laws, wages and demand for jobs where foreign workers are solicited need to reflect the needs of our country and economy.

Immigration laws should not solely be based on economic criteria. We are a rich country, both economically and I hope still in spirit. Looking at immigrants and blaming them for the economic conditions of our neighbors is not only unfair it is not true. The fact that there are Americans who are living in poverty is not because we don’t have the means as a country, but because we don’t have the will.

Fair wage laws, affordable housing, access to quality education (think Hanover High School compared to Franklin), access to affordable college and trade schools for those who meet the schools and programs requirements – all this would make the lives of our neighbors so much better. And, yes, we can afford it. We can chew gum and walk at the same time. We can provide quality education for our children and welcome those from other countries and provide them with opportunities they could have never imagined in their own countries. We can provide quality jobs and livable wages for our neighbors and provide employment for those who come here.

I believe the city council missed an opportunity to take the moral high ground when we opted not to use our collective voice to shout at the top of our lungs that it is both immoral and wrong to take children from their parents. Send them home if they have broken the law, let the parents decide if they want to leave their children here (if they qualify) for opportunities not available in their countries. But I hope forcibly taking children from their parents for seeking a better life for their families is just as morally abhorrent to you as it is to me.

(Allan Herschlag represents Ward 2 on the Concord City Council.)