sanctuary for immigrants
By Amna Jamal Hussain
Student at UMBC
As the daughter of two successful and highly-educated immigrants, I was very glad to hear that the CB-9 bill was passed by a 3–2 vote. This bill has no direct effect on my family and I, but it does affect the fellow Muslim sisters and brothers who are either fleeing their country due to turmoil, war, or famine and also people of the Latino and Mexican community as well as other distressed minorities wanting to start a new life. This bill says a lot about the community of Howard County. It shows that we are welcoming and accepting of peoples from all different walks of life. Many people in our community, both immigrants and native born, have seen darker days. At the rally before the County Council, I spoke to an immigrant from Korea who was against the bill; he said that providing sanctuary for immigrants would endanger the peace in our community. As I continued to speak with him, he stated that he would support the bill if every immigrant who came to Howard County had gone through a thorough background check and attained a proper visa to be in the country. While we were talking, several people standing in line waiting to get into the Council meeting to debate the issues of CB-9 were asked by the authorities to show their IDs to prove that they were registered. The Korean immigrant complained that this was not fair. I then pointed out the irony of this to him, that although he wanted everyone to be here with proper documentation, he did not like the fact that he may also be asked to show a ‘proper’ ID to confirm his ‘legitimacy’.
Although, ideally, every immigrant and refugee should be here legally, given the evolving diversity in our country raises the question as to how do we interact with and respond to people who we come in contact with on a day to day basis and who may ‘not appear to be natives’? Do we ask ‘such people’ to show their proper identification/registration/visa papers? Should the authorities stop and interrogate people about this? If so, when and where should they do this — in stores, at gas stations, in restaurants, at traffic stop lights or upon spotting and stopping them on the highway? For that matter, what should be the role of the ‘legitimate’ residents of Howard County in this process? Do we alert authorities if we spot someone who is not ‘native-appearing’ — a very tough task indeed given our diversity? Thus, although the concerns about having security and safe borders are real, and certainly we cannot have a county or country without legal and respected boundaries, it is apparent that the issues are very complex and need to be debated and addressed logically and compassionately amongst all the concerned stakeholders.
In terms of safety issues and concerns about potential terrorist related activities, according to the Cato Institute, an American libertarian brain trust with credible members such as Alex Norwasteh and many Nobel Laureates, the chances of an American being killed by a refugee on American soil are 1 in 3.6 billion; 48 times less likely than the Earth being hit by an asteroid. The fear amongst our County residents is also coupled with complacency which cannot be afforded to us given the dire conditions people are facing in different parts of the world. While we cannot take on the world’s problems and be overrun by displaced people, our community is known to be diverse and welcoming, and should extend its hands to those who are already here and trying to make an honest and sincere effort to better themselves. We need to allow children immigrants the same opportunities as native born children. Our goal is safety, yes, but humanity comes first and is a fundamental part of the American fabric.