Every week my stories are made possible by the staff of The Knoxville Focus and my wife, Becky, who serves double duty as my editress. I appreciate strong and thoughtful women, so this week welcome the other half of our team: essayist Becky!
By Becky Ferguson
I support LEGAL immigration.
I am resentful of political correctness which stifles debate on this and other issues and I am angered by the biased and dishonest reporting of the news media. Just about everyone has access to Google or Facebook and, in mere seconds, can produce “facts” to support or denigrate the topic d’jour. I don’t possess degrees in statistics, history or political science; but I have “street creds” with one of the hottest topics of late – immigration.
You would not be human if your heart didn’t break when hearing or seeing the suffering in this world. The flip side of the wondrous things technology gives us is a front row seat to the tragedies of the world. And often we feel impotent to make a difference; it’s so overwhelming. We have been led to believe that only Big Government can solve such Big Problems. But I challenge that thought regarding immigration.
Saying we must open our borders to all those who suffer is NOT the answer. Saying that we can legislate the actions required to successfully bring millions of refugees to our country and provide them “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” is the most empty of political promises. But people tend to buy into that promise because it makes them “feel” like they are finally doing something about this global tragedy. We are coerced to take a bold action and open our borders to all these people . . . but will you open YOUR door and take them in???
BIG government can help by truly vetting refugees and controlling who immigrates. This is the only way to approach and solve the crisis. And the legal process does not need to be re-invented, laws just need to be enforced.
In June 2007, our church family, through the organization Bridge International, LEGALLY brought to Knoxville a family of nine refugees from the war torn area of Burundi, Africa. None of the children of Joseph and Maria had ever seen their parents’ homeland. Instead, they were born and raised in multiple refugee camps in Rwanda and Tanzania. (To get a taste of their environment watch the movie, Hotel Rwanda.)
Before boarding the plane for the United States and Knoxville, the Joseph family had never experienced running water, electricity or even a bed. The parents had survived multiple threats to their lives. It was a courageous and desperate step for the family to come; it was a bold and courageous step for our church to receive them; and we have ALL been blessed.
But had they arrived en masse with thousands of similar refugees through a virtually open border, their plight would have been dramatically different. Who would be their advocate, their mentor, their “hand-holder” on this new “planet” called Knoxville Tennessee? Our church community stepped up and helped this family assimilate and learn our American way of life.
I found myself particularly drawn to this family; I’m not sure how I became so deeply involved. But I soon found myself not pretending to “walk a mile in their shoes,” but instead promising to walk beside them. And here are just a few of our shared experiences, triumphs and joys:
Teaching the kids to swim
Discovering you can flip a switch and have heat in the apartment during the cold winter months, but only after making it through their first winter without heat because no one thought to tell them of this modern convenience
Earning a regular paycheck
Passing a driver’s test and buying a car after months of saving and walking/riding the bus to work
Sharing with me the prized cut of the goat they bought and butchered
Working through the fear of stepping onto a Down Escalator for the first time
Calling me at 9:00 pm, asking if I would bake lasagna for a high school class the NEXT day (truly an American school student request!)
Learning American hygiene in a gentle, loving way, only to have our dog sneeze non-stop the entire way home from school when the young man overdid it with the men’s cologne – and then LAUGH about it
Asking me about the “man in the moon” while sharing the parallel African folklore of the “rabbit in the moon”
Sitting around the kitchen table reviewing the US Citizenship test questions
Attending ALL of their US Citizenship swearing in ceremonies
Helping with homework and pridefully watching an “adopted” son receive an American high school diploma
Attending trade school while working two part time jobs to keep food on the table and rent paid and then FINISHING the certification and getting a REAL job with a future
And two of my favorites:
Calling me out of the blue just to “check on me”
Naming their first American-born child after me
I don’t know of ANY government that can legislate or mandate the above. Was it work? Sacrifice? An imposition? Uncomfortable? Frustrating? YES, YES, YES to it all. But as any parent would say about their own child, it was ALL worth it.
Yet political voices are accusing us of cruelty for not opening our country to the masses invading our Southern border. If people were shouting, protesting and beating on your front door, would you open it and welcome them in? We cannot have open borders. Open borders result in an unvetted onslaught of people which then lead to the destruction of all.
I believe the solution is Build the Wall, but include doors. Open, not our borders, but our hearts, minds, lives and American way of life to those who come to us LEGALLY. It was once called immigration with assimilation. And it’s not something that Big Brother or Big Government can accomplish successfully. It’s a gift and a responsibility of every American.
Don’t talk the talk unless you are prepared to walk the walk. Build the Wall, then open the door.