Letter: Thanksgiving is a good time to reflect on immigration

Thankfully, the midterm campaigns are over, but some topics continue to divide the country, inflamed by President Trump. His contempt for immigrants, especially those from certain countries, is extremely disheartening, and his recent attempts to limit asylum are especially dismaying.

I know a little about asylum-seeking. I helped a young man leave his country and get asylum here. Applying for asylum is not easy. A person must demonstrate that he or she would be in mortal danger if forced to return. He lived as a gay man in a dangerously homophobic society. I just reread the heart-breaking account he provided with his asylum application. I was able to provide independent evidence of the danger he would face if forced to return home. While waiting for asylum, he was sick with worry about the possibility that asylum would not be granted and he would have to go back. He waited over three years for asylum --three years of dread, worry and waiting.

He did not get one penny from the government. He has been in this country for nearly eight years. He got his green card. He is now a homeowner. He has a good job, and recently got a raise. He is active in his community. As soon as he can, he will apply for citizenship. His story is not unlike many others, though he was fortunate in having a support group here. Many do not.

Trump, in particular, but also his predecessors have refused to accept refugees from countries where we are deeply complicit in creating the conditions that made people flee--places like Iraq, Afghanistan and now Yemen. We even slammed the door shut in the faces of many Iraqis who risked life and limb by helping the U.S. military.

Most of the so-called "caravan" of poor people trying to make their way to the U.S. are from Honduras, a country controlled and wrecked by American banana companies and by U.S. military support of the corrupt right-wing regimes there. President Reagan intensified this assault on the people of Honduras, but President Obama continued much the same.

To refuse to accept responsibility for conditions that cause people to flee for their lives is moral cowardice of the most despicable kind.

Getting asylum is not easy. Between 2011 and 2016, there were 40,000 applications for asylum from people from Mexico and Central America. Eighty percent of those applications were rejected. For us to deny people the chance to escape violence, death, destitution and persecution is a clear sign of moral failure. Politicians who support these policies should to some serious soul-searching, and so should those who support such miserly and inhumane policies. Thanksgiving would be a good time to reflect on these things.