Saturday, August 22, 2015

An open letter to Elise Foley (Immigration and Politics Reporter – The Huffington Post) on Immigration

An open letter to Elise Foley (Immigration and Politics Reporter – The Huffington Post): 

I read with great interest the article written by Ms. Foley at the Huffington Post on 21 August 2015 titled, “Immigration Activist Renew Focus On Local Battles After National Disappointments” and subtitled, “We’re ready to fight”.   My interest comes first as a compassionate person with over 17 years working in the non-profit world and secondly as the father of five.  I am a veteran of the U.S. Army, the first of my siblings to attend and graduate from college and have always found myself drawn to the ideal of treating everyone with respect, responsibility, trust and help.  Sometimes holding such wishful ideals has opened me to criticisms of being na├»ve and at times I have been manipulated by those I worked to help.  Through it all I have maintained the thought that trying to assist the larger population that deserves respect off-sets those who willingly manipulate and abuse the good will of those wishing to be of assistance.  Of course through the years I have changed many of my thoughts and feelings on a variety of social issues but my core still demands that all citizens are treated with respect, responsibility, trust and help. 

After reading your column Ms. Foley, I took some time to reflect on what was written and wondered if you shared the same values for everyone.  I believe, like Pres. Obama, that words have meanings and that it truly matters how they are written and or spoken and as I read your column I was struck at just how the meaning and intent of words were not treated with the respect and responsibility I would hope they deserve.  Early in the column the presentation was made that, And after activists helped convince more than 300 jurisdictions in recent years to limit cooperation between police and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, an outcry against those so-called "sanctuary cities" threatens to halt that progress.  Trouble is that there is no “so-called” to the term “sanctuary cities”.   The Center for Immigration Studies website ( list maps of cities, counties and states that they title “sanctuary” and as you know, they are not alone in using this term.  Your column cited the tragic murder of Ms. Stienle in San Francisco as part of the backlash against such policies and the fact is that the City of San Francisco ordinance is titled “Sanctuary Ordnance” at the City and County of San Francisco’s webpage.  There really is no “so-called” but rather an honest, overt passage of ordinances by municipalities to label their city as a “sanctuary” so it’s confusing that you don’t acknowledge what they clearly do.

The column discussed how, advocates with United We Dream and Immigrant Legal Resource Center are circulating a toolkit to groups around the country that support immigrant rights with advice for how to fight collaboration between ICE and local police, which they say is putting their communities at risk.
Their plan came after a phone call in June, when activists lamented that they were still losing community members to deportation.   I find it startling that two groups, one made up largely of legal professionals, could openly promote a “toolkit” with the intention of helping local municipality’s subvert the application of laws within the United States.  Consider that what is being promoted is requesting that local communities disengage from open and honest conversations with our Federal Law Enforcement Agencies in an effort to subvert the enforcement of our existing laws.  I am sensitive to the idea of civil disobedience and acknowledge that some laws seem very unjust however it is confusing that credentialed officers of the court would willingly engage in promoting the open defiance of the very laws they were sworn to uphold.   Further I find the use of the term “fight” as an odd, shall we say, micro-aggression, instead of showing respect and responsibility for the laws of the United States we now have folks who not only advocate the open defiance of them but demand a “fight” against those who have a Constitutional duty to enforce and uphold such laws.  Sure I know that some will say a minority group and those advocating for such a group can’t be guilty of a “micro-aggression” but when the term “fight” is used and it is coupled with an open demand that local communities cease from assisting our federal officials just how is that not an aggressive behavior?  In reality when your column proudly stated, Activists helped take down the Secure Communities program, the implication is clear that there exist and aggressive demand to dismantle or ignore the laws of the United States and to “take down” those things which are found objectionable by a minority group.  Again I do understand and have great reverence for social disobedience but to a great number of Americans such open defiance appears to be nothing short of a hostility to the laws and law enforcement agencies of our society and I question if those advocating such policies truly understand how disrespectful, unhelpful, irresponsible and untrustworthy what they are advocating comes across to a great number of Americans.  Maybe it is naive but I believe the majority of Americans wish to do nothing but live peacefully under the law and wish to have all of our community follow the grand societal contract of shared values so eloquently written about by Alexis de Tocqueville in “Democracy in America” and we are finding that shared commonality and values in grave conflict with the aggressive demands of those who advocate open defiance against not only our laws but those commissioned with upholding them.  I found it odd that your column stated, A number of jurisdictions decided to stop respecting ICE hold requests in recent years based on concerns that working with ICE could damage relationships with the immigrant community.  Stating this admits that relationships are damaged by action yet the jurisdictions you cite seem to have no concern with the damage failing to uphold the law has on the great many of Americans who in our hearts still strive for the shared values of respect, responsibility, trust and help. 

In your column it was communicated that the murder of Ms. Kathryn Stienle in San Francisco became a time of reflection for many.  I believe that your writing again reflected a dismissive tone as you asserted, So-called sanctuary cities became a flashpoint after the fatal shooting of 32-year-old Kathryn Steinle in San Francisco last month, allegedly at the hands of an undocumented immigrant who had been deported five times.  Again, there is no “so-called” with regards to sanctuary cities, particularly with regards to San Francisco and the idea that Mr. Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez is somehow “allegedly” responsible for Ms. Stienles death ignores not only the witnesses, including the victim’s father, but also ignores Mr. Lopez-Sanchez own admission that he killed Ms. Stienle.  I respect the idea under our system of justice that those charged with a crime are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt however in this instance referring to Mr. Lopez-Sanchez as being “allegedly” responsible is fascinatingly dismissive.  While I am more than willing to give you the benefit of the doubt in believing that you would extend the idea of “innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt” I can’t do the same for the editorial staff of your employer, the Huffington Post.  A simple “Google” search showed countless articles where police officers involved in shootings were not given the same presumption of innocent and while I believe that is perfectly acceptable because it reflects the accuracy of the story, softening the language in the case of the murder of Ms. Stienle and calling the perpetrator of that crime as being “allegedly” the shooter seems odd to say the least.  As I wrote earlier, I believe that words matter and it struck me that in your article you willfully skirted the responsibility you have as a writer to help the reader with regard to Ms. Stienles murder.  While I believe you correctly mentioned that her death was a moment of reflection for those advocating changes to immigration law and you mentioned the what (murder of Ms. Stienle), where (San Francisco), and how (gunshot) you intentionally or inadvertently left out the “whom” with regards to the actual witnessed, arrested, charged and by his own words admitted perpetrator:  Mr. Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez.   Even more troubling to me is that while the murder of Ms. Stienle is seen as an impediment for those advocating changes to immigration laws by Mr. Lopez-Sanchezs own admission to San Francisco television station (ABC 7) he knew San Francisco to be not a “so-called” sanctuary city but a real place of sanctuary where he would not be pursued by immigration officials.  Full disclosure, I don’t believe, should be subjected to a selective telling of the facts and inadvertently or not, that is what I have taken away from your column. 

The reporting that the House of Representatives have voted to block federal law enforcement grants to communities that provide sanctuary for those deemed illegal aliens (which, offensive or not is the actual term under the law) was left hanging open without telling that in truth such actions by Congress is relatively typical.  I am old enough to remember when our Congress voted to withhold funding to states that failed to pass a fifty-five mile an hour speed limit and the use of such “carrots” (withholding or providing more support) was a big part of the Affordable Care Act. 

I am open to discussing and hearing any and all voices regarding the desire to change, amend or completely rid ourselves of some of the current immigration laws.  Yet, I honestly struggle when I read columns such as the one you wrote for the Huffington Post that I believe not only softens the language intentionally but willfully leaves out a complete telling of the truth. 

Americans, I believe, are compassionate people and without question we have an amazing history of welcoming others and of accepting different cultures, religions and beliefs.  We are not perfect but we have desperately worked to move in a humane and accepting direction.  No westernized nation has elected, appointed and promoted such a diverse ethnic, gender, sexual orientation and religious leadership as has America.  Imagine that just this past January when our current Congress was sworn in they were the most diverse group of representative ever elected in the history of the United States of America all while our sitting President remains the first African-American President ever elected.  Understand this is not to imply that we can’t and shouldn’t continue to strive for greater inclusiveness but it ought to serve as a reminder of just how much progress America has truly made. 

For many folks, myself included, I see the progress that America has made as a great source of pride along with a tremendous recognition of just how marvelous our nation is.  But then as I seek to do nothing more than fulfill the ideals of a collective society based on the values of “Democracy in America” and to ingrain those values in my children I am confronted by open aggression not just to my beliefs but the institutions of justice in the United States of America when I am confronted with individuals who advocate not just changing our laws but to request local elected leaders defy those laws by giving adherence and acceptance to a “toolkit” intended to ensure cooperation from our local law enforcement is thwarted all under the guise of “compassion” while no respect or responsibility seems to be shown for the actual system of law and government we have in the United States.  Understand that I don’t make such statements lightly but I feel that I am compelled to believe such when I hear activist quoted as saying, "We're ready to fight, we've been ready to fight,"  Carolina Canizales, an organizer with the youth-led advocacy group United We Dream said. "We're no longer going to be defined by a court decision. We're no longer going to be defined by a policy."  Honesty demands that such statements are called exactly what they are; aggressive (“we’re ready to fight, we’ve been ready to fight”), dismissive (“we’re no longer going to be defined by a court decision”) and demanding ("we’re no longer going to be defined by a policy”) and unquestionably such things fail in showing any level of respect, responsibility, trust and help for the Citizens of the United States, the rule of law we all live under and the government we elect to represent us.