Imagine the courage it takes to leave your home, your country, your family, and all that you have to embark on a long, dangerous journey to a place you have never been, where you know no one, and where you don’t speak the language. This is the journey that many of our parents, grandparents, and those who came before them took to come to America.

It’s the journey that people from Mexico and South and Central America are making now. Our forefathers came here to escape tyranny, wars, genocide, and poverty. These people are coming for the same reasons. Our predecessors traveled by ship in steerage; today’s emigrants are walking hundreds of miles. They are coming in the faint hope (growing fainter by the day) that they might be given a chance for a new beginning in a free country.

When I lived in New York City, I often had conversations with taxi drivers who were more often than not first-generation Americans. And if there were pictures of their children taped to the dashboard, as there frequently were, I wanted to know about them. Proudly, the drivers would tell me, “Oh, my daughter is studying at Columbia University,” or, “My son is an honor student who has won a scholarship,” or, “My daughter is in medical school at Johns Hopkins.” Mother or father drive a cab for 60 hours a week in New York City traffic so their kids can have a better life.

The truth is, the people who make the treacherous journey to come here and are willing to make huge sacrifices so their sons and daughters can be successful citizens are not the reprobates that fear mongers would have us believe. The contrary is true—they are brave and industrious and their offspring make huge contributions to our country. Perhaps that is what fearmongers fear most—that the children of refugees will outperform their own.

In January 2017, Bloomington was set to receive 20 refugee families, mostly from war-torn Syria. But when Donald Trump came to power, he put an end to that program for Bloomington and other welcoming communities across the country. He has endeavored ever since to brutalize those who do make it to our border, and to drastically cut the number of refugees that America accepts. Trump is now pushing to cut refugee resettlement in 2020 to 18,000, down from 30,000 in 2017, the lowest number since the modern resettlement program was created in 1980. In Barack Obama’s last year, the number was 85,000. Over generations, America has been made great by the character, hard work, know-how, and sacrifice of its immigrant populations—by the Irish, Germans, Jews, Italians, Chinese. By everyone. No nation has ever been made great by a narcissist who knows nothing about an honest day’s work.

Not Courage

A November 3, 2019, Herald-Times editorial bore the headline,“Braun shows courage on climate change,” and praised Sen. Mike Braun for partnering with a Democrat to form a bipartisan climate change caucus. If this is courage in America today, then the bar for courage is very, very low. Over the past three years, Donald Trump has rolled back or is in the process of rolling back 85 environmental rules seen as burdensome to the fossil fuel industry and many big businesses. These rules were put in place to protect our air, our water, and the planet itself. Courage would have been Braun speaking truth to power and objecting to this degradation.With California on fire and some of Braun’s own constituents starting to feel the effects of climate change, he finally did something—but not enough to be meaningful or enough to incur Trump’s wrath. “Let’s start to talk about this [climate change],” he is quoted as saying in the H-T. Far too little, way too late. No courage required.

Malcolm Abrams
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