The deportation of Sayed Jamal does not make my city great


UPDATE: Good news for once!

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Too close for comfort. And it doesn’t make this a “good” system. The sentiments I express below are still very much in effect. But we’ll take this blessing for he moment.


Dear Rebecca:

Bad news from Lawrence, KS:

A judge has ruled against Syed Jamal. He is reportedly being taken to a plane for deportation, according to Marci Leuschen, who created a petition on Jamal’s behalf, which about 94,000 people have signed. The Kansas City, Mo., law firm representing Jamal said on Facebook that his legal team had filed a last-minute appeal around 1 p.m. Monday along with a fresh motion for a stay of removal. “At this time there is no stay of removal in place and Mr. Jamal is at risk of removal,” the Facebook post said.

This is probably always how this story was going to end. But it is painful nonetheless.

I do not see how this deportation makes America greater.

I do not see how this deportation makes America better.

I do not see how this deportation makes America safer.

I do know that it wounds three children, all U.S. citizens, who are losing their father. I’m not sure what the country gains in the tradeoff.

Maybe I’m not the person to try and tackle the question. My conservative friends – and even my not so conservative friends – point out that every country has and exercises the right to decide who may come and who may stay. When my governing hat is on and my Mennonite hat set aside for the moment, I recognize this is true.

Put the Mennonite hat on, though, and problems with that stance become clear. For one: Most of us would not be here if the country’s original inhabitants had been given much of a say, I don’t think, and certainly not if they’d applied the standards to our ancestors that our countrymen do to today’s immigrants. The long-term principle involved seems to be that might makes right – we took the country because we could and we’ll keep other people out because we can. If that seems churlish – I don’t think so. I have a conservative friend who disputes the idea that we’re a nation of immigrants – what really happened, he says, was a conquering. And that’s part of how he justifies his immigration hawkishness. It seems icky to me.

This friend also contends that diversity is not our strength, as liberals contend, but our weakness. He posted this Facebook quote this week: “Of the top ten most diverse countries in the world, every single one has suffered major, lethal political violence since 2001. Diversity is not some holy sacrament, it is a deadly serious socio-political challenge that needs to be prudently managed.”
Let’s look at the list of most-diverse countries, shall we?

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Some people will notice that these countries are largely African. What I notice? That at least eight of the 10 have emerged from colonial rule only since 1960, and a ninth — South Africa — only emerged from apartheid that was the legacy of colonialism in the last 30 years.

At this stage in American development, our country had yet to fight its Civil War. Young nations tend to be fractious. But let’s be honest: Living with diversity can be hard. So maybe, in this case, correlation and causation aren’t so far apart. Let’s look at the 10 least diverse countries in the index and see what we turn up.

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Welp. If only we had the freedom from violence of Yemen! The stability of Greece! The dovishness of North Korea!

My conservative friends say countries have the right to put up gates, to decide who comes in, to decide who stays. They are not wrong. And yet, when it comes time to decide who gets in and who stays, we make decisions that feel very wrong.

Those decisions are based on race — no, I don’t believe those folks who argue for “culture” as being a dividing line. Those decisions are also based on wealth.

Nevermind that this country was built by poor people who, crazily enough, weren’t quite white enough in their day. There was a time when Italian and Irish and even Germans were considered dirty, lesser, mongrels. “But they assimilated” my conservative friend says. Then again, so is the current generation of immigrants.

I don’t know how to make immigration policy. What we’re doing now, though, empowering a police state that swoops down on families and destroys them? I know that’s wrong, and destructive. And I find myself wondering about conservative friends who get angry when he government goes overboard to stop the threat of unpasteurized milk but are fine when it manhandles a fiftysomething father who posed less threat to the health of his community than the bacteria-filled dairy.

I don’t know how to make immigration policy. But I know three children miss their father tonight. And that seems to me greater than any harm done by the act of staying here without permission.

— Joel

One comment

  1. I lived in a large immigrant community in KY for a year. I worked at a communiy center that helped them assimilate into the culture. Ppl don’t seem to believe that most immigrants take classes in assimilation when they arrive and if they do something that is legal in their home country that is illegal here (like genital mutilation) they will be punished.
    It boggles my mind that ppl don’t understand this.


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