In the mid-1980s, the dying Communist regime in Poland –in a desperate attempt to hold on to power– began heavily persecuting its Catholic population. They jailed women and the elderly, broke up families, and invented crimes from thin air in order to persecute priests. It was a dark time in Polish history. The political climate created thousands of refugees with nowhere to go.
Fortunately, the African-American Catholic community here in Dallas answered the call. They donated an entire church, St. Peter's in downtown Dallas, to the Polish refugees, and went above and beyond in welcoming the refugees into this new and unfamiliar land.
This took unbelievable bravery on the part of the African-American Catholics; after all, they were giving their homes to Communists... at the height of the Cold War! Many locals objected. These refugees couldn't be trusted! What if they were spies? What if they were here to sabotage our city?
30 years later, these concerns sound childish. The Poles have integrated into the greater Dallas community, setting up shops, businesses, and even starting their own cultural festival.
Yet, here we are. Again.
Powerful men in Washington want you to be afraid. They want you to associate refugees, and indeed all immigrants, with fear. They spout bare-faced lies about increased crime. They fabricate imaginary statistics about welfare rolls, or overrun prisons, or needle-strewn streets. They find one instance of an immigrant committing a crime, and pretend that it is occuring millions of times over, evey day, in every community. They lie about the immigration process, making you think that the border is overrun with illegals pouring into the country to take your jobs.
First, the good news: none of these assertions are true in any way, shape, or form! Now, the bad news: they tell you these lies because they want to control you. They want to use your fear, and turn it into votes, which they then turn into cash... for themselves, not you.
But here's the thing: we have one hundred years of hard data that says you shouldn't be afraid.
Crime rates for immigrants, legal or otherwise, are half the rate of native-born Americans. Immigrants take on our most dangerous, low-paying, least glamorous jobs... jobs that are nevertheless absolutely essential to the smooth running of our economy. Immigrants start their own businesses at a far higher rate than native-borns. And they create communities that blend into the greater city of Dallas as a whole, enriching our cultural heritage.
Texas needs immigrants, regardless of where they're from. Immigrants are good for business. They create demand, in the form of houses, food, transportation, clothing, entertainment, and energy.
Illegal immigrants and refugees are just like us, except that they are fleeing a terrible situation for themselves and their families. There is no economic justification for turning them away; in fact, those communities which need them the most seem to spurn them the hardest. For example, when Trump instituted the first of his two failed Muslim travel bans, he directly prevented the very same people who settle down as doctors in poor, rural communities from entering this country; these are areas where no native-born American doctor will work. But Iraqi and Syrian practitioners will do so gladly, even at a fraction of the average salary, just for a chance to come to America and realize their dreams.
The travel ban has hit Texas especially hard already: our medical schools reported an instantaneous 30% drop in enrollment applications, while the tourism industry now predicts up to a 38% drop in revenues. That's $200 million in tourism losses in Dallas alone! And all for a travel ban that serves no purpose, doesn't make us any safer, and flies directly in the teeth of the U.S. Constitution –not to mention everything that the United States has ever stood for.
Start-ups will head to more welcoming countries, like Canada. Dallas' many tech companies will be unable to bring over highly-skilled workers to fill critical positions. And the farming, construction, and oil & gas industries will take huge losses, as crops rot in the fields and massive projects fail to get off the ground due to staffing shortages.
Immigration is the bedrock of this nation. Those who are currently here illegally should be given a path to citizenship; this can include the payment of back taxes, a penalty, a heavily-vetted criminal background check, and a citizenship test. The bad hombres who actually commit crimes can be deported; but the vast majority –community leaders, strong families, women and children– should be welcomed as American citizens.