Lexington mayor welcomes immigrants as U.S. government abuses them at the border

Kudos to Lexington Mayor Linda Gorton who on Monday clarified a minor point in policy and a major point in our city’s culture and identity.

In the face of possible immigration raids across the United States, Gorton noted that Lexington police won’t help U.S. Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) in raids here unless there is a court order or imminent public danger. But she also said something much more important:

“Lexington opens its arms to immigrants who provide great value to our community. We welcome the diversity of thought, experiences and culture. We are a better community because of the many cultures represented in Lexington.”

Her words come at a crucial moment to our city, when many people are questioning exactly who we are as a country.

Linda Blackford Charles Bertram cbertram@herald-leader.com

This week, news reports detailed the horrific abuses perpetrated on children in federal detention centers on the border who are in those camps, because they’ve already been taken from their parents under President Donald Trump’s family separation policy aimed at deterring people who seek asylum here. The Associated Press detailed attorneys who witnessed horrific conditions of young children taking care of infants, children with flu, without enough food or blankets or soap. Since the initial stories, the government has moved the children.

Many will argue that people should not flee their war-torn countries and try to come to the United States, and that is an argument. But it’s my understanding that most religions and cultures share a basic commitment to the idea that children are innocent, absolved of the sins of their parents. They should not be used as pawns, or political tokens in some cruel game dreamed up by Trump sycophants like Stephen Miller, a 33-year-old speechwriter whose forebears fled anti-Jewish pogroms in Belarus at the turn of the century and found refuge right here in the United States.

“It’s completely inhumane,” said Sister Marge Eilerman, a Catholic nun who worked at the Texas border last year and plans to go again in September. “A country is known by the way they treat their children and their elderly, and we’re not passing here.”

Eilerman lives and works at the Holy Family Catholic Church in Booneville, except for a year-long stay at the federal prison on Leestown Road. She was sentenced for protesting the former School of the Americas at Fort Benning, which trained numerous soldiers accused of murder and other human rights abuses in Central and South America, many of them against Catholic workers.

On her first visit to Texas, Eilerman volunteered at a Catholic charity that received people released from ICE custody. What amazed her was the number of local residents who would bring food, water and clothing for people they saw as family. “They are not immigrants to them, they’re sisters and brothers,” she said. “They know that we’re a human race, we’re all family, and that was so inspiring.”

On social media and elsewhere, I see many people who need that kind of inspiration, who instead feel helpless about what’s happening thousands of miles away and what’s happening to our country as a whole. There are numerous organizations working to help children and their parents compiled by the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights.

On Friday, July 12, numerous cities are hosting “Lights for Liberty” vigils to protest U.S. immigration detention centers. Several local groups have organized the Lexington “Lights for Liberty: A Vigil to End Human Detention Camps” at 8 p.m. Friday, July 12 at Robert F. Stephens Courthouse plaza.

Or people can also call their elected officials and tell them we need a new, sane immigration policy in place, one that doesn’t destroy families as soon as they cross the border. Even in our divided nation, we should be able to agree on this.

Linda Blackford writes columns and commentary for the Herald-Leader.