Op-Ed: U.S. should deal compassionately with immigrants, seek PR boost

Posted Aug 7, 2014 by Calvin Wolf
This year has seen a massive wave of immigrant children, many unaccompanied by adults, crossing into the United States, seeking refuge from violence in Central America. While politicians dicker, it must be remembered that we could benefit from good PR.
Joe Biden
Vice President Joe Biden
Photo by Andy Mettler
What should we do about immigration? This question has plagued native-born citizens since the very founding of our country. Virtually every new wave of immigration was initially met with scorn and derision from those already here, much like hazing and bullying are perpetuated on newcomers every fall at high schools and colleges. The first upper-classmen, the English, looked down upon the Germans. Later, when the Germans had undergone their hazing and were fully accepted "Americans," they helped bully the Irish. Later, the Italians felt the sting of discrimination and prejudice, as did other immigrants from southern and eastern Europe.
Today, of course, the descendants of just about all of these folk consider themselves just plain white.
Even knowing this, many people still don't know what to do with undocumented immigration from Latin America. Accept them with open arms, no questions asked? Process them liberally, but with some hard-and-fast requirements? Have stringent processing, only allowing in a select number? Turn away all but the "best and brightest," needed to buoy our still-weak economy? Turn away everyone?
Where does your local congressman fall along this spectrum?
Dealing with the current wave of immigration, characterized by an unprecedented number of unaccompanied minors, has overwhelmed contemporary efforts. 2014 has seen thousands of children from Central America entering the United States, most fleeing violence back home. The Border Patrol has been overwhelmed and local and state governments have struggled to figure out what to do. In Washington, Congress punted the issue and left for their August recess, leaving the White House in charge.
While it is unknown what policy decisions the White House will make, especially since Republicans in Congress already want to sue President Barack Obama for alleged overuse of his executive order power, a hint comes in the form of vice president Joe Biden. According to NBC News, Biden has urged compassion and asserted that "these are our kids." He reminds us that nations like the United States are built on the passions and ambitions of the young.
Regardless of political affiliation, politicians should recognize the importance of a good "soft sell" this year in terms of international diplomacy. Being compassionate on undocumented immigration would be a great way for the United States to win some good PR. With crises looming around the globe, ranging from Russia and Ukraine to Iraq and Syria to Israel and Gaza to Afghanistan, the U.S. needs to come to the negotiating table as a noble hero, not an ungenerous lout. We need the diplomatic power of the high road.
To be able to talk tough about the bad guys, we must prove ourselves to be the good guys. Yes, dealing with illegal immigration is expensive. Yes, illegal immigration can cause many problems. But we need allies, and we can win more of them by being the America of old, the idealistic one that accepted the tired, poor, hungry, and oppressed. If we are prepared to nobly fight to protect refugees in Iraq from the brutal terror of ISIS militants, as explained by CNN, we should also be prepared to protect refugees on our own borders.
We need the world's support in crushing ISIS, Boko Haram, and other horrific organizations that target innocents, and the best way to get that support is to show our compassion and that we remember our idealistic roots.