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Col Owens: Immigrants have always been a gift to America; we should establish reasonable process

Immigrants come to the US for two reasons: safety and opportunity. This has been true since the settlement of this continent began (except for slaves). All of us, except for the relatively few indigenous people among us, are the progeny of immigrants.

Today our immigration system is in shambles. The numbers wanting to come here have increased dramatically, due to the growth of authoritarian governments around the world and the incidence of natural and man-made disasters and other limits on the ability to earn a living.

So we are in the posture of turning away people, many of whom have a legitimate asylum claim and others who simply want a better life for themselves and their families.

Col Owens

The irony is that we need workers here. Most immigrants are more than willing to work at jobs that many if not most Americans do not want to do.

The other irony is, that across the globe, most of those wanting to escape oppression and privation want to come to the US. Despite all our current issues, they still see the U.S. as the land of safety and opportunity. This should be a source of pride for Americans.

There is no simple solution to the current mess. But there are reasonable steps that can be taken. We must establish a rational process for allowing those with asylum claims to register them and to pursue getting them established.

There must be an effective triage process for moving those people as quickly as possible toward evaluation of their claims. 

Others with economic hopes must be processed as well, in the order of their claims.

We can and must work internationally to address circumstances abroad that contribute to the flow here.

Despite the rhetoric of those on the right, immigrants rights activists are not in favor of open borders. I am not.

I am in favor of a rational basis for addressing the needs coming to us. And for adequately funding it, so that it works.

Immigrants have always been a gift to America, and those coming today are not different. We should welcome them.

Col Owens is a retired legal aid attorney who teaches poverty law at Northern Kentucky University’s Chase College of Law. He is the author of the memoir Bending the Arc Toward Justice (Cincinnati Book Publishing, 2020) available on Amazon.

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