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Why we welcome Cuban refugees, but turn away those from Central America

An official with Health and Human Services says the more than 2,300 children separated from their parents at the border as a result of a zero-tolerance policy on illegal crossings won't be immediately reunited with their families. | AP Photo

Since the 1960’s, Spanish-speaking Cubans fleeing the Castro regime have been welcomed enthusiastically by Republicans who provided them with every assistance, documentation formalities waived. Meanwhile, our nation has sent back all Haitian refugees fleeing their equally repressive government.

Now, today, Republicans are stopping at nothing to bar other Spanish-speaking refugees fleeing misery and death threats in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. But this practice, even to separating parents from children in detention camps, has caused such a public outrage that President Donald Trump has had to reverse his directive.

The unequal treatment, nevertheless, continues.

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What’s the common denominator in this pattern of official favoritism versus official hostility? For one, it is skin color. Nearly all those Cubans were visually white, while those crossing over from the Mexican border are some shade of tan or brown. Secondly, Cubans loyally vote Republican, while refugees from Mexico and Central America tend to vote Democrat, reacting to Republican hostility.

This time, the Trump machine overplayed its hand. But a reflexive impulse to bar people continues to animate U.S. immigration policy, which historically has always been hostile to groups not from Western Europe.

The essential truth is that almost all immigrants become loyal, respectable, and hard-working citizens, even to serving in our military.

The push-back against Trump seems to mark a re-assertion of what America, this nation of immigrants, has always stood for. Every successive group has further enriched the whole. This is what made America great long before Donald Trump was born.

Ted Z. Manuel, Hyde Park

Trump took only a baby step toward immigration reform

President Trump is basking in applause for undoing something he never should have done in the first place. It’s a baby step. Where is the program for reuniting the more than 2,000 already separated from their parents? Where’s is the legal status for DACA people — young men and women brought to our nation as children — who deserve security and a path to citizenship? Where is the comprehensive reform of an immigration system that everyone agrees is broken?

This country needs a federal government that is both effective and compassionate, in keeping with our long-standing values and ideals. The Trump-led Republican circus is falling far short.

Mary F. Warren, Wheaton