Immigration dialogue discusses concerns with current U.S. immigration policies
SHEPHERDSTOWN – Over the last few years, United States residents have begun to question the justness and effectiveness of federal immigration policies. As this topic has become a major hallmark of the president’s tenure in the White House, extreme views on either side of the debate have developed, resulting in seemingly irreconcilable differences on the subject between the Republican and Democrat parties.
While Washington, D.C. remains polarized over this topic, some of Shepherdstown’s residents recently sat down for an evening of discussion on the subject. On April 11, Covenant Community Church hosted an “Immigration Dialogue: The Complex Mandate of Loving Your Neighbor.” Mediated by the church’s senior pastor, Joel Rainey, the event featured a panel of immigrants and those involved with immigration.
“The best thing you can do on the subject of immigration, is to be silent and to give immigrants a voice,” Rainey said about the event.
The panel included Asbury United Methodist Church Pastor Rudy Bropleh, a Liberian immigrant; Catholic Charities Immigration Attorney Christine Glover; Evangelical Immigration Table representative Alan L. Cross; Mexican immigrant Lorena Nathan; Ivory Coast immigrant and Shepherd University International Admission Officer Siriki Diabate; and Shepherd University professor Maret Akopion, an immigrant from Georgia.
According to Bropleh, he didn’t want to leave Liberia, but fled after war broke out in the country. His main concern with the politicization of the immigration process, is how it is encouraging the polarization of the United States.
“I’ve made the observation lately, ‘This is starting to look just like Africa.’ We have to be really careful,” Bropleh said. “The novelty of the American experience for immigrants, is the dream of freedom.”
Bropleh’s concern was shared by Akopion, who fled the USSR and became a Canadian citizen, before coming to the U.S.
“My greatest fear, is if the United States in my lifetime became the country where I’m coming from. Things are fundamentally wrong there in those other countries, otherwise, they would have been fixed,” Akopion said of the USSR’s communist regime. “If we stick to these old ways, letting people put ideas in our brains, things will only get worse.”
As the evening progressed, the panel members agreed on a number of immigration issues. While they didn’t all disagree with building a wall between the U.S. and Mexico to control immigration, they all agreed on the principles of treating immigrants with respect, kindness and generosity.
“Kindness is big and love is big. Love is biblical,” Glover said, mentioning one example of unloving behavior in the treatment of immigration along the U.S.-Mexico border. “In Brownsville, Texas, they take peoples’ passports and identification away from them. Without that information, they can’t even get food at a food pantry.”
One obvious way, according to Glover, is to show kindness to immigrants by getting to know them and sharing food, clothing, transportation and language training opportunities. Agreeing with Glover, Nathan mentioned some preventative measures Americans can take, to help future U.S. immigrants acclimate to their new country.
“I feel you all know there is something in you that knows you can make a difference,” Nathan said. “Teach tolerance to your families. Try to be better than you were yesterday. Continue to fight the good fight.”