Faith groups ready to help immigrants

Gov. Terry Branstad drew a line in the sand that should not have been drawn. The governor rejected any possibility of welcoming some of the unaccompanied minor children who recently have flooded into the United States from Central America.

Branstad’s position is not aligned with Iowa’s values. Many leaders in the faith community, people of faith and other Iowans are calling upon the governor to reconsider his position.

Branstad stated that he has compassion for these children but he does not want to send a signal that it is OK for undocumented immigrants to enter the country illegally. He has called upon the federal government to better protect the borders of our nation.

The governor’s position to not provide refuge and shelter is contrary to Iowa’s history of welcoming immigrants and refugees and our natural inclination toward hospitality. And, his solution is irrelevant to the situation.

Demanding that the border be more secure is a smokescreen to cover the harshness of his position.

The truth is these children already are in the United States and it is our responsibility as a nation to care for them until an individual decision is made about each of their futures. The governor shares in that responsibility to care for them and should not be throwing out overused and unconstructive talking points that confuse the urgent issue at hand.

These are children and they deserve our full compassion simply for that primary fact, but also because of the reason that many of them made the difficult journey to our country. Many of these children are fleeing countries facing extreme violence, not like anything most Iowans have ever seen.

Put yourself in the shoes — no, the hearts — of the parents and loved ones of these children. Can you imagine yourself sending a child you love, yours or someone else’s, to another country without knowing what will happen to them and without any assurance of their safety or well-being? Sending your child to another country without your supervision simply because you know it must be safer and less violent than your own community and home? Can you imagine the desperation?

I cannot. I cannot imagine the fear or the anguish.

Iowa has a long history of stepping up and helping refugees and immigrants in many situations.

In the 1970s, Gov. Robert Ray, who is much beloved in this state and a fellow Republican to Branstad, spearheaded efforts in the nation and in Iowa to welcome refugees from southeast Asia. Because of Ray’s leadership, Iowans opened the doors of this state and welcomed strangers, showing compassion to those who needed help.

So it is with these children coming from Central America. They need Iowa’s help.

The faith community of Iowa is ready to help. We implore Branstad to reconsider his position and to represent Iowa in the welcoming manner for which we are widely known across this nation.

It is within the context of Iowa values that we ask the governor to show compassion. We want to work with him to find the needed solutions in Iowa. The faith community and many others are ready to do the work to help these children.

Please open the doors of Iowa and welcome the children so that they may be cared for and provided shelter.

• Connie Ryan Terrell is executive director of the Interfaith Alliance of Iowa. Comments: connie@interfaithallianceiowa.org

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