San Francisco Chronicle (John Kasich): Reject the Low Road that Leads to Separating Children, Parents


Gov. John Kasich recently authored a column in the San Francisco Chronicle about why it’s so shameful that America is separating children from their parents at our border.

Reject the low road that leads to separating children, parents

In his farewell address to the nation in 1989, President Ronald Reagan recounted the story of an American sailor aboard the aircraft carrier Midway patrolling the South China Sea in the early ’80s. It was the height of the “boat people” exodus from Southeast Asia and the sailor and his crewmates had spotted a small boat on the horizon filled with refugees trying to get to the United States. The Midway sent a launch to rescue them before their boat sank, and as the sailors pulled the refugees from the water, one of them saw the sailor standing on the deck and shouted to him, “Hello, American sailor. Hello, freedom man.”

For President Reagan, that greeting defined, “what it was to be an American in the 1980s. We stood, again, for freedom.” Fast-forwarding 29 years, when seeking asylum is a criminal act and immigrant children are stripped from their families, would “freedom” be the first word President Reagan, the sailor or the refugee used to describe America?

Just when we think we have seen it all, along came something like the Trump administration’s child-separation policy. Leveraging immigrant children — children — to drive their families from seeking Reagan’s cherished freedom, is so unacceptable, so offensive to our nation’s basic values that our only response was to come together to reject this abomination and reclaim our American identity. I was encouraged by the bipartisan outrage that arose against this practice and that the administration reversed its policy.

In addition to providing yet another example of how this administration’s moral compass continues to spin and spin wildly with no true north, the child-separation controversy revealed that the administration is simply out of ideas on how to make progress on immigration. And, in fairness, Congress owns some of that. The repeated inability of Congress to come together and make even the most modest progress on immigration has driven the situation to a crisis. Washington has created a humanitarian crisis and fails to grasp it.

Reversing the family-separation policy is encouraging, but to say it is only a first step is an understatement. We must set the gamesmanship aside, bring everyone to the table and craft a real way forward. No one disagrees that we need stronger, more effective control of our southern border. We also need a pathway for legalizing longtime, law-abiding undocumented residents as well as a viable guest-worker system. It is admittedly a lot to ask from a Congress that cannot even perform the comparatively easier task of providing permanent relief for undocumented immigrants who arrived with their families as children, the DACA “Dreamers.”

The broader issue that demands our attention is Washington’s dysfunction. How can we say that our federal government still works when it is permitted to go decades without addressing a problem with as many potentially negative consequences as immigration? And we have seen just how grave those consequences can be: the government’s mechanized trampling of families only seeking our compassion. When things sink to that level, can we say that the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are, in fact, still real?

We rarely get the luxury of picking the problems we face. Ideally, every country would be an Eden that no one would want to leave for someplace else. All things considered, I am glad we live in the kind of place that people seek instead of want to leave. Our challenge — like it or not — is managing the current immigration crisis without letting the pressure change who we are. In fact, it’s only the strength of who we are — the strength of our values — that will see us through.

Someday, we will all be asked which path we took when faced with big choices. This is such a time, and we must all live with the answer. The answer rooted in any definition of freedom is to reject inaction and the low roads to which it leads like child separation. Instead we must roll up our sleeves and make real progress on our immigration challenges before we lose sight of the values that define us. We must choose the high road once again, lifting ourselves up, guided by the ideas that make America great and the example of those who have come before.

In the end, what will matter isn’t if we followed the party line but if we followed our conscience and stood for what we say we believe. American greatness flows from the goodness that empowers us — individually and together — to make those higher, better choices. We must reclaim that goodness and cling to it while we still can.

You can read the original column here.

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