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Editorial: Secure borders and compassion

By The Editorial Board, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on

Published in Op Eds

A great nation must have secure borders.

A great democracy must embrace liberty and human rights.

In 1933, the year that Adolf Hitler became chancellor of Germany, Albert Einstein helped create the International Rescue Committee. Twelve years later, at the end of World War II, there were tens of millions of refugees displaced in Europe whose lives the IRC helped rebuild amid the rubble.

Examine any decade since the IRC's noble founding and you will find that, somewhere in the world, people were fleeing war or political persecution based on their religion, ethnicity or political ideology.

You will also find American leadership extending a hand to those desperate, vulnerable people.

President Harry Truman signed the first Displaced Persons Act in 1948, resulting in the resettlement of almost 500,000 refugees in the United States before he left office in 1953.

President John Kennedy assisted Cubans fleeing Fidel Castro.

President Jimmy Carter established the Refugee Act of 1980.

President Ronald Reagan brought hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese refugees to American shores. Reagan vowed that "We shall also, with other countries, continue to share in the responsibility of welcoming and resettling those who flee oppression."

 

America is the land of opportunity and we have a right to be choosy about the people we want to live here.

We are also the land that, more than any other, welcomes the oppressed and those yearning to be free.

Over the past three years, the U.S. has lowered the cap on the number of refugees admitted to the United States. At 18,000 this year - a 40% drop from last year and a 79% drop from 85,000 in 2016 - it is the lowest level since the program began 40 years ago.

This is coinciding with the greatest refugee crisis since 1945. According to the United Nations, almost 80 million people worldwide - more than double the number a decade ago - have been forcibly displaced. This includes almost 30 million refugees, half of whom are under the age of 18.

We can't take them all. But we can do better. As President Reagan noted, welcoming the oppressed is not the same as an open-border immigration policy. Refugee policy is managed.

We can protect our borders and reach out to those who, like our ancestors, wish to come here to be free. We can do both.

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(c)2020 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
 

 

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