I plan to write something about it for the site tomorrow, and maybe for later today. Meanwhile, here are two letters I received overnight that are worth considering:
I believed you mentioned you would be writing about the detention of immigrants with Visas and Permanent Residency in the US at various airports yesterday. I’d like to give you some insight on how Homeland security operates. After 9/11, sweeping legislation was created to help keep us safer, many argued that they were too broad at the time I thought a little inconvenience for some can’t be that bad if it keeps everyone that much safer. However Homeland security has a lot of power and if they detain you it is a fraught situation.
In 2005, my father a naturalized citizen, travelled from Dominican Republic to JFK. Homeland security had gotten the name Jose Rodriguez as a person of interest and detained every Jose Rodriguez on their flight’s arrival. At least 20 of them. My father has lived in the US since 1970, has owned businesses, and owns his home. He said they treated the group like criminals. Keeping them penned in a small room, taking them out one by to interview them, by different agents. Constantly asking the same questions of them, hoping to trip one up. They were not allowed food or phone calls. Several times my father asked for a lawyer, and was denied. I was at the airport circling the arrivals gate for an hour before I just parked the car to enter the airport. I went to the ticket counter to ask if the flight had even arrived, then to ask if my father had even made it on the plane. I was afraid maybe he had had a medical emergency at the airport before departure or on plane. The agent told me she could not confirm if he had made it on the plane. For the next 3 hours I called the airline, I called the airport, I called my relatives in Dominican Republic to travel tot he airport to confirm he had departed. I went to the departure gate where there were several families distraught, I had found the family and friends of the other 20 Jose Rodriguez’s. That’s when I put it together that they were all detained. I called the airport and got in touch with homeland security and told them that I had contacted a lawyer that my father a US citizen was being detained and that he had a right to a lawyer. I was told they could not confirm that my father was in custody but that even if he were their detainees are not guaranteed any such rights. I was livid, I was so angry I was in tears. I was furiously calling an attorney to figure out our rights. 15 minutes after my call to homeland security all of the Detainees were released. I like to think that it was my call to their office threatening to lawyer up but i doubt it.
The following year my sister was detained on her flight from France. My sister was born in the states and is a citizen, not naturalized. She fit the description of a terrorist that might be at that time. She was detained for 3 hours.
Some of the people being held Saturday or outright returned from to their original departure were permanent residents, and valid visa holders. Some had small children and were elderly. Some of them their only home is here in the states.
I remember the sour taste that the above experiences left in my mouth when my family members were detained. It’s how I imagine the people yesterday felt. Upset, and humiliated. I am so grateful for those attorneys that rushed to the airports to help, and the coverage on twitter to bring awareness to what the President’s quick signature wrought on all those people traveling that were blindsided by an executive order with such broad language. I hope it is found unconstitutional and I pray that it doesn’t radicalize some people.
Here’s another one that I’ve slightly edited for privacy:
I thought I’d share a small anecdote about this immigration executive order – and the tumult of the past week more broadly – touches my life. I’m a professor of civil engineering at [university]
I’d like to tell you about one of my best graduate students — possibly the best. In her first year working with me, she wrote two research articles, helped with a third, and was critical to our success on a project for our local Department of Transportation. A year and a half into her graduate career, she is already my go-to research assistant when something needs to be done right, the first time. Last summer she worked as an intern at an auto manufacturer, and they loved her. They’d like to hire her, but she wants to get her doctorate in civil engineering (you know us… we design and operate all that infrastructure you keep hearing about).
When she was in high school, her classes we segregated, and the girls didn’t have access to science labs. She led a group that lobbied successfully to get access to labs and equipment. In 2014, she immigrated to the U.S. as a permanent resident (green card) and her family now lives in Ohio. A year and a half ago she started her master’s degree under my supervision, and is on track for that doctorate. But if she wants to go to a conference in another country to share our research or keep us up to date on what other researchers are doing, she won’t be allowed back in under Friday’s executive order. Or, for that matter, if she wants to take a rare weekend off and visit our nearest neighboring city, which happens to be in Canada. All because she is from Iran — no matter that she is a lawful permanent resident of our country. This young lady has done everything right and played by the rules, and now we’re changing the rules on her. How does this make any sense?
But this is not just about her. I work at a large research university. I have research grants and contracts with right now with a major auto manufacturer, the National Science Foundation, the US Department of Transportation, and our state DOT. My ability to deliver on these contracts depends on my recruiting and retaining graduate students, especially PhD students. And my ability to fund those students depends on my securing continued grants and/or contracts. I have already heard from one of my funders in industry that the capriciousness of the administration and the resulting uncertainty for their business may force them to reduce their investments in research over the coming year.
If you have been affected personally by the president’s executive order, or can tell a story like the first reader, tell the rest of us what you’re seeing.
UPDATE: From a conservative Christian friend in Texas:
I want to tell you about a conversation I had on a flight home from Virginia in December. I actually thought about telling you then but was swamped, and besides, now is just as pertinent.
One of the men I sat beside on the plane was a Turkish PhD graduate from one of the New England schools (I forget which) who was presenting his paper on nuclear fusion to various colleges around the US hoping to find employment. We talked about many things, and we discussed the refugee issue. He had an interesting view. I would have expected him to be angry by the rush of people who invaded his home country and disrupted their economy. Instead, he had great compassion. He said, “We do not resent them. We understand war. We understand what they are fleeing. What we don’t understand is the world’s lack of compassion and unwillingness to help.”
He went on to talk about how these people are welcome, but the government thought other countries who had helped other refugees would be open to these, but that is not the case. He recognized countries are afraid of terrorists. He said, “We are afraid of terrorists, too, but terrorists will come whether we help people or not. Not helping them does not stop the problem. It only leaves us accountable when we stand before the final Judgment.”
This man was raised on the front lines of this battle. He was in his mid-20s. War and terrorism have been part of his whole life, and yet, he has compassion. More than that, he has the big picture. Terrorists are going to come…whether we help people or not…they will come. God will not hold us accountable for how many terrorists we accidentally let in, but He will hold us accountable for the poor and needy we turn our backs to. Do I like the idea of helping Syrian refugees? Actually, the idea scares me, BUT, one thing I have learned about God is that mercy, love, and compassion open the door to Him, and He is the only one who can protect us from the enemy, whether that be a physical one or a spiritual one. Is that wisdom? I don’t know. All I know is a young man from Turkey who is smart enough to study and explain nuclear fusion has a handle on compassion that made me stop and think.