Our Pledge To You

Letters to the Editor

Turning away desperate refugees is not the American way

In this May 2018 file photo, children play inside the Moria refugee camp on the Aegean island of Lesbos, Greece. | AP Photo by Petros Giannakouris

As the daughter of immigrants, I believe strongly in the promise of America. I know that we become stronger by taking in the world’s “huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

This isn’t just an ideological hope. Research shows that refugees help us fiscally by paying substantially more in taxes than they receive in benefits. Refugees help us socially by bringing in energetic young people to supplement the workforce. And historically, refugees like Albert Einstein have helped to catapult the United States to the forefront of the world’s scientific community.

We as a nation benefit from accepting refugees. We break our moral promise when we slam our doors in their faces. So Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s announcement that the U.S. will accept fewer refugees next year — capping the number at 30,000, down from 45,000 now — could not come at a worse time. The United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees has already announced that 68.5 million people around the world are currently displaced from their homes, the highest number ever recorded. These people are living in trauma-inducing instability.

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I have taught in refugee camps in Lebanon, witnessing first-hand the ways in which forced displacement cuts through lives, putting unbearable strain on adults and children alike. I remember learning that my six-year-old refugee students were pathologically scared of fire, because their camp, built of shoddy cloth and wood, had burned to the ground in an electrical fire the previous winter. No child should have to live in such a state of constant fear. By accepting refugees into the United States, we alleviate such fears and allow refugee families to begin to rebuild their lives in a stable environment. Refugees do not pose a danger to us, given the extreme vetting process they go through before arrival here.

When we reject refugees, as this administration is doing, we reject those who make us stronger, and we break our founding promise. Do we no longer wish to be a shining city upon a hill? Our elected officials should not support this administration’s draconian cutting of refugee resettlement number. Rather, Congress should protect resettlement funding and work to ensure the administration recognizes the relationships refugees have with U.S.-based resettlement agencies and family members. This is how we can help to fulfill the promise of America.

Thulasi Seshan, Hyde Park

Kavanaugh accuser truthful

Sexual assault is all too common. While at a party in college, I was pinned to a bed by one man, and another man blocked the door to prevent my escape. My attacker ripped my shirt, and when I fought him off, he told his buddy, “She’s not worth it,” and I was let out of the room. Back at my apartment, I called the cops, who found the two guys. They wanted to charge both men with false imprisonment, a felony. I later dropped charges because I was afraid of being blamed for having several drinks, even though I was of legal age.

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, didn’t go to the police about Kavanaugh. Perhaps she was afraid of getting in trouble for under-age drinking? But she’s definitely telling the truth concerning sexual assault. This story reads like a broken record in the lives of many women. 

Mary Sleger, Niles

Bettie Jones settlement

The report that Bettie Jones’ estate was awarded a $16 million settlement for her shooting death by Chicago police Officer Robert Rialmo fails to mention the total for police lawsuit settlements. One tally reached more than $500 million going back some 10 years. That’s a lot of money to a city whose finances are in the red.  

The story also noted that Rialmo and his partner wore no body cameras that night. Moreover, ” . . . quite a few were not operable (in 2015)” according to Ald. Anthony Beale, former police committee chairman, without quantification or explanation for the shortcoming. Aren’t cameras required to be worn on patrol, and turned on? The council discussion raises related questions: Are all body cams operable today? If not, why? Are they not properly maintained? Is there no manufacturer warranty for free replacement?

Video footage can verify a cop’s version of an event turned deadly, and can refute a claim for money damages. So you would think every cop would want to wear a working cam every shift. Is this another indicator why court-supervised police reform is so badly needed to restore confidence in the police force? It might also restore confidence in the council’s police committee.

Ted Z. Manuel, Hyde Park