Letters for the week of April 19, 2017

A fight for the soul of America

I have growing concern for the immigration policies in the United States that are being enforced today. Those policies have become exceedingly aggressive and completely unethical.
According to NPR, last year nearly 1.5 million undocumented immigrants were deported and separated from their families. Approximately two-thirds of them had no criminal record. That number has increased 10 times from the number deported 20 years ago, and has been growing steadily every year. The new immigration policies that are being proposed for 2017 are more alarming. ICE policies have become even more strict and the amount of immigrants that are deported is likely to increase even further.
Even more concerning is what a large percentage of the population that is supportive of these harsher policies: “A 2012 Pew Poll found that 69 percent of Americans want to place greater restrictions on who was allowed into the United States. A recent poll found that a plurality of Americans wish to see a ban on immigration for the time being.” A recent poll, commissioned by Secure America Now, indicates that more than half the population is in support of Trump’s proposed immigration ban.
There are more than 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States, many of whom have citizen children, whose lives here are just as precarious, and whose stories haven’t been told.
Immigrants today are viewed as “illegal aliens” before they’re considered as humans beings as people with families, as people seeking a better life/future for themselves.
Our country, once supposed to be the land of opportunity, with equal opportunities for everyone, is becoming a cruel, closed-off place.
Not only are immigrants the backbone of our societies, they’re our neighbors, our coworkers, our peers, our friends, and every one of them has a different story.
The Mexican girl your daughter is friends with at school, her dad has just been deported. The Nicaraguan boy who won the science fair last week and gets straight As has just been put into foster care because customs took his parents away. The Somalian girl you work with at the office, her fiance is not allowed into this country.
Who are we to say we have the right to separate people from their loved ones, their families? When did it become O.K. to discriminate against people so blatantly?
At this point I think it’s fair to assume that everyone has been touched by immigration in some way. Whether it’s through personal experience or just through someone you know, the level of immigration enforcement in this country has gotten way out of hand.
This issue hits close to home for me because my own father was an undocumented Polish immigrant who came to America to escape the struggles of communism.
Although European immigrants are not necessarily viewed the same way as other undocumented immigrants are today, during his time he was at the bottom of the social ladder. Many of the Polish immigrants entering the country during that time were uneducated farmers/workers and had completely different customs than Americans, but that was not largely understood among the population so immigrants like my father were generally ridiculed and treated as ignorant. He was treated as an illegal outsider, who had to start out his life in this country cleaning grocery stores and receiving little to no respect.
We’re all children of immigrants and we need to be more concerned about what these policies are really doing to people, and what they’re doing to this country. With immigration policies becoming stricter, and the punishments becoming swifter and harsher, it’s scary to think that this country doesn’t know when to draw the line, or perhaps just doesn’t care to.
More and more people are speaking out about this issue, but that’s still not enough. This is a call to raise more awareness on the issue that’s really going on and take the necessary steps to fix our system.
This is no longer a protest, this is now a fight, this is America’s fight. Anyone and everyone who has a story needs to speak, and needs to be heard. No one in this country is more privileged than the next, and it’s time that people start understanding that.

—Karina Serene, Bellingham (edited for length)

Be thoughtful 
to wildlife

Boaters in Southern California were recently asked to look out for a gray whale entangled in what was most likely crabbing gear or fishing line. A skunk was found wandering along a road in Canada last fall with his head wedged in a soda can. Earlier, in Colorado, a bear cub whose head had been stuck in a plastic snack jug for at least five days was rescued.
With Earth Day set for April 22, it’s a timely reminder that we can do our part every day for the wildlife, as well as cats and dogs, who share the planet by picking up after ourselves.
To save animals from strangling on plastic six-pack rings, cut apart all sections of plastic. Birds can become entangled in fishing line and swallow the hooks—prevent it by never going fishing and picking up discarded line. Rinse and crush cans before putting them in the recycling bin, and fold back the tab on beverage cans to block off the hole. Rinse jars and jugs and replace the lids. Plastic bags can choke or cause fatal intestinal obstructions in whales, turtles and seabirds. Choose paper bags or, better yet, take reusable bags when shopping. Make sure trash cans are sealed securely.
It only takes a minute, and could mean the difference between life and death.

—Craig Shapiro, PETA Foundation

Rebuild economies we’ve destroyed

In the context of the crimes committed by the United States since 1945—the nuclear destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki; the overthrow of democratically elected governments worldwide; the killing of millions of civilians and the destruction of their economies in wars we have waged directly or actively supported—the demand by the Trump Administration that Cambodia repay a $273 million loan, now grown to $500 million, incurred by the U.S.-supported Lon Nol regime at the very time, 1969-1973, when the United States was dropping 540,000 tons of bombs on Cambodia, along with generous helpings of Agent Orange, represents a cynical low, even for the U.S. imperium. The loan was made, ironically, to finance Cambodia’s purchase of U.S. agricultural products, even as our bombing campaign was destroying the livelihoods of Cambodian farmers and forcing them to flee their land.
Five hundred million dollars! That is no less than 10 percent of what we give Israel per annum, no strings attached.
After 30 years, 1945-1975, of destroying Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos, we should have immediately launched a Southeast Asian Marshall Plan to rebuild their economies. If our economy is dependent on collecting the Cambodian debt, let’s forgive the debt and deduct the $500 million from our next tributary payment to Israel. We should go further: terminate the tributary payments entirely; disallow the private tax-free donations to Israel, which are used mainly to finance the construction of illegal settlements; pledge the $8 to $10 billion saved per annum to rebuilding the economies we have destroyed in Southeast Asia and the Middle East; and apply the remainder, if any, to restoring our own infrastructure.

—Thomas J. Hussey, Bellingham

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