My mom called tonight to ask if I had been at the naturalization ceremony today welcoming one thousand new citizens at the St. Paul RiverCentre. We talked about the road they traveled to citizenship: first living here as legal permanent residents for years, then assembling all the needed documents and information to apply, paying a $725 application fee, going through security and background checks and a medical exam, waiting for months or years for an interview, demonstrating that they can read and write and speak English, passing the civics exam—all because they want to become full citizens of the United States.
My mom said a thousand people becoming citizens sounded like a lot. It is—most ceremonies in Minnesota are for smaller numbers of people, though large ceremonies at the RiverCentre are scheduled several times this year. All are open to the public, whether the ceremony is at the RiverCentre or at a federal courthouse or other location. Each year, 700,000 to 750,000 immigrants become U.S. citizens.
As the ugliness of the current political scene makes it hard to believe in this country, immigrant energy and patriotism and hope can re-energize us to work together and dream together for a country worthy of their commitment and faith.
And now the news:
Trump visited the border city of McAllen, Texas today to talk about the dangers of immigrants crossing the border and to tout his wall. Not so fast, said many border residents. Sure, they would like to see more funding for ports of entry, not a wall, and. they really don’t like Trump’s trash talk about immigrants and border cities:
“We don’t feel a crisis in our city,” [McAllen Mayor Jim] Darling says. “That’s one of the problems with just saying there’s a crisis on the border: It affects border towns. We’re a vibrant area. McAllen is the safest city in the state of Texas, and we’re right on the border, so that kind of rhetoric resonates and sells newspapers, but it hurts our area.”
“I want to emphasize all the discussions about danger and crisis … We live day to day in a very safe community and all our people feel that way. We had no murders last year in a city of 150,000,” Darling adds.”
The nine Congressional representatives from Texas border districts all oppose the wall. Democratic Representative Vicente Gonzalez, whose district includes McAllen, says that, “When people talk about violence streaming across the border, it’s just nonsense.”
Meanwhile, other battles over immigration continue in U.S. courts. In California, a judge has temporarily blocked the Trump administration’s order to end Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for about 300,000 immigrants from El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Sudan. In a similar in New York, the court heard testimony about the administration’s determination to end TPS for Haitians, regardless of facts:
“The case centers on the Temporary Protected Status program, which has allowed about 50,000 people from Haiti to live and work in the U.S. temporarily since a devastating earthquake in 2010. The emails, filed with documents in the case, bolster the argument by migrant advocates that the Trump administration was so bent on ending TPS that it ignored the U.S. government’s own research showing that Haiti was in no shape to take people back.
“The problem” with that analysis, one Trump appointee to the Department of Homeland Security, Kathy Kovarik, wrote in an October 2017 email, “is that it reads as though we’d recommend an extension (of TPS) because we talk so much about how bad it is.”
“The basic problem is that it IS bad there,” another official responded. “We can … try to get more, and/or comb through the country conditions we have again looking for positive gems, but the conditions are what they are.”