Beth Werlin, Deputy Legal Director for the American Immigration Council, discusses the recent...
After 10 years, does hope exist?
Published on Mon, Sep 12, 2011
On 9-11, three sixth-graders along with their teachers were among the passengers killed on American Flight 77 when terrorists crashed the plane into the Pentagon.
I remember later that month dropping in on a class of sixth-graders at May Street Elementary School here in Worcester to get a sense of how they saw themselves and their lives.
That trek ended up being a heartening experience, because in those students, during what was a bleak moment in this country’s history, I found hope, optimism and a hunger to be neighborly.
“What I have learned from this is that we should help each other,” Suzanna, one of the students, told me.
I can only hope now, 10 years after, that Suzanna and her classmates of that year are hanging on to their hopeful and neighborly sixth-grade badges.
Yet, if some of them have lost faith, I wouldn’t be surprised because the billowing dark clouds of that horrific day are still chasing the good in us, still stirring in us a growing hardness, and a crassness in behavior that is threatening to be the norm.
Although many think it is a good and even a righteous battle, there is hardness in the never-ending and costly war we have launched on terror.
We know of the 3,000 innocent lives that perished in those 9-11 attacks, but how many of us have reflected on, according to some estimates, the almost 1 million U.S., Afghan, Iraqi and coalition troops and civilians who have been killed over the course of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars?
We talked about ending these wars, but primarily the debate seems to be over the amount of money we will save, and not the number of lives.
Although many think it is necessary, there is hardness in how we engage one another.
Since 9-11, for example, we have become less neighborly to the millions of undocumented workers among us. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement records show that in 2005, some 112,000 illegal immigrants were deported, but that the number of deportations in 2010 was almost 400,000. Since last Oct. 1 and the start of the 2011 fiscal year, some 244,000 deportations had already been recorded.
It is true that the Obama administration is concentrating on deporting those with criminal records. Nevertheless, according to the ICE data, just more than half — 197,090 — of those deported in fiscal 2010 did not have a criminal record.
In addition, a growing number of those criminal deportations are for level 3 violations, such as DUI arrests and traffic violations.
Not all of the deportees are illegal immigrants. According to the Immigration Policy Center, about 10 percent of those deported each year are legal permanent residents, and between 1997 and 2007, more than 100,000 children, of whom 88,000 were U.S. citizens, were affected by the deportation of one or both parents.
With some 5.5 million children in the country having at least one undocumented parent here, we can only imagine the turmoil these deportations are causing in their young lives.
But our capacity to empathize with these children and their parents seems to have shrunk.
We are clinging more and more to our crassness.
We seem more willing to cut the social safety net for the poor and the elderly.
Those who have benefited from the roads, the dams and bridges and the public schools that their forefathers paid to build now don’t want to spend anything to pave the future for the next generation.
A sixth-grade class this year probably wouldn’t seem too different from one 10 years ago.
Yet, as much as we might not want to believe it, since then we have created a much different country for this generation of young people.
We have created a country in which hope and neighborliness are much more difficult to nurture.
Published in the Telegram: Worcester MA | Read Article