Of Sets And Subsets

The concept is a simple one to comprehend. I learned it in either elementary or junior high school. The bottom line is that it was so early in my education and long ago that I cannot remember the occurrence. Evidentially it is too complex for most Republican elected officials to understand or it is another case of willful ignorance; in this case aided by racism and xenophobia. I trust I have sufficiently piqued your interest to the point you will come along and explore with me.      

The concept I speak of is generally taught as a mathematical one; I speak of sets and subsets. I mentally visualize them as concentric circles of different diameters but that is not necessary. An example is that all quarterbacks are football players but not all football players are quarterbacks. Therefore quarterbacks are a subset of football players. I could go on and on with examples but you get the concept; in fact if you are smart enough to be a regular reader of my work you knew it going in.

The specific set I want to deal with today are immigrants and the subset is refugees. I will speak in terms of people wanting to enter the United States. A non-American citizen seeking long-term or permanent entry into America is, from our viewpoint, an immigrant. There are a variety of reasons they may desire to do so. The reasons/motivations put them into subsets one of which is that of a refugee. A refugee is fleeing a negative and often life threatening situation in their country of origin. Most often that very much includes fear for their life if they were to return.

The necessity of quotas, controls and rules for those entering as tourists or for economic reasons is reasonable and serves the general public interest. Refugees are another matter. We have a moral obligation to help our fellow man in his hour of desperation.

Recently natives of several Central American countries have been attempting to cross into the United States across our southern border. In many cases they have traveled great distances enduring hardships and risking their lives in the process. Instead of welcoming them, as is our moral obligation as well as obligation under international law, the current administration is making it extremely difficult to enter through a normal checkpoint, incarcerating them, separating families, refusing them legal counsel and often transporting them right back into the life threatening danger they fled all in a general effort to discourage immigration.

Almost to a man, woman or child they are non-Caucasians. The root of the policy is not that America is full and we simply have no place to put them; it is xenophobia and racism. The dirty little secret is that we will soon have a labor shortage. Our population is graying and in certain manual labor type jobs we already have a shortage of workers. Many of our farms could not profitably function without temporary field laborers. The recent ICE raids at Mississippi plants were more the rule than the exception in the meat processing industry. (Interestingly we punish the workers and almost never the employers). But I digress. Comprehensive immigration reform is needed and also perhaps the most complex social problem facing America today. Refugees are a subset of the entire problem and fortunately an easy one to solve.

For starters we should encourage applicants for refugee status to present themselves at established border crossings where they receive an initial interview. If their claim has any merit they should be granted temporary asylum pending further review. This is primarily a justice issue and I’m a believer in justice delayed being justice denied. It is also less than optimal for us to either house or have large numbers of asylum applicants roaming around America.

Like the issue of Dreamers, this is a relatively easy part of the immigration system to fix (exactly where to draw the line is sometimes tricky, especially with Dreamers). A little bit of empathy and common sense would go a long way. I don’t know much about my family’s history but I know that three of my four grandparents came to America from Poland as children around the turn of the 20th century. I doubt they were refugees but I have no reason to believe that their parents had exceptional wealth or skills. In many cases all you have to do is change the dates and country of origin and my family story isn’t any different than that of most Caucasian American citizens. With the exception of our small Native American population we are all immigrants or the decedents of immigrants.

If teachers could teach the children of blue collar workers, many of whom never graduated from high school, the concept of sets and subsets in 1960’s Western New York I don’t think it is beyond the comprehension of the Republicans in 2019 Washington, D.C.

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