Commentary

By Dianne Feinstein

Originially published in Medium.

The United States is a nation of immigrants. The idea of a melting pot originated from the recognition that our country is the ultimate land of migrants and refugees.

The 2010 census reported there are 40 million foreign-born residents in the United States, and the percentage with roots abroad is much, much higher.

Many of these families left behind famine, war and natural disaster. They escaped Nazi death camps or the Vietnam War. They fled instability in Iraq or Afghanistan, Syria or Yemen. They left behind desolation after an earthquake in Haiti or a tsunami in Thailand.

And more recently we’ve seen families looking for a better life in the wake of death squads and devastating poverty in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.

Lately we’ve heard about a so-called “caravan” of hopeful asylum seekers approaching our border from Central America?—?many of whom are making that long, dangerous trek on foot.

Regardless of President Trump’s false claims, this isn’t a convoy of Middle Eastern terrorists or drug dealers. There’s no evidence of a threat and police and reporters are scrutinizing the group’s every move.

In fact, we now know the group is largely made up of families, many with young children.

So why are these families braving this danger in hopes of applying for asylum in the United States? Extreme poverty is a factor, but the vast majority are fleeing gang violence and terror the likes of which most Americans can’t even imagine.

These families know they may face danger on the way to the United States, but they see a choice between possible hardship here or certain death at home.

They’re making the journey to protect the lives of their children and give them a shot at a better life. Just like immigrant and refugee groups have done going back to the founding of our country. Just like we would all do for our own children.

This isn’t a national security issue?—?no one really believes that. What Republicans are doing, in my opinion, is exploiting a humanitarian crisis for political ends.

What’s at stake here is whether our country is going to turn our back on people with legitimate asylum claims, in opposition to everything our country stands for, in order for the president and his allies in Congress to further exploit the politics of fear and division.

Should we have open borders? Absolutely not. No one is calling for that, despite false statements from the president.

Can security on the border be improved? Nothing is perfect, but we’ve already made significant additions to border security and personnel over the years. But the president’s call for a “beautiful” border wall is ridiculous and no one actually believes a physical wall is the best means to improve our security.

Are there other reforms we can make to improve our immigration system? Yes. We could pass comprehensive immigration reform, as we did in 2013, that would address those already in the United States as well as those seeking to come here.

That bill also had additional border security and interior enforcement provisions. We could also reinstate the Obama administration policy to prioritize removal of dangerous criminals, not hardworking parents and children.

Unfortunately, the bill was not taken up by the House after it passed the Senate.

Ultimately, the president cares more about political messaging and dividing our communities than actually solving problems. Last year, the Senate offered the president a bipartisan solution on Dreamers, individuals brought to the United States as young children through no fault of their own?—?but he refused to take yes for answer.

The answer isn’t to continue to employ these tactics that further divide our nation, the answer is to fix our broken immigration system, improve our economy and stand up for the ideals that made our nation great.

Providing asylum for those fleeing from incredible hardship helped make our country what it is today. President Trump would be well-served to read some history books before his next round of reckless attacks.