Dear President Trump:
In today’s Daily Lectionary Old Testament reading, God rebukes leaders who destroy and scatter the very people God loves. God promises to raise up a leader who will “deal wisely and…execute justice and righteousness in the land.” Then the people will no longer be afraid or dismayed. (Jeremiah 23:1-8) In the Epistle reading, Paul lists many things that can cause us fear – hardship, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, authoritarian leaders, violence, death and the future. But none of these realities can separate us from God’s love that has been fully demonstrated in Jesus. (Romans 8:38-39)
As I read these verses I wondered about those who are most afraid and dismayed in this country. And those who are afraid and would like to come to this country.
Myriam Aziz, a Fulbright scholar at the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding, recently produced a 25-minute documentary of her interviews with Syrian refugees currently living in Lebanon. With a population of 4.5 million, Lebanon hosts more than one million registered Syrian refugees who have fled the violence in their own country.
Some of them would like to come to the United States.
But from their comments in the video, it is clear they are aware that they may not be welcome here. A Syrian mother asks, “For those who fear us…why? We are just like them: kindhearted and good people, just like Americans.” A young boy says, “I would like to go to school in the United States. I want to learn English.”
Mr. President, it is a false choice to pit working-class Americans against refugees and immigrants.
A recent New York Times article cites a 550-page report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine which concludes that, with a few exceptions, immigrants do not take jobs from Americans. And while first generation immigrants do add some tax burden on state and local governments – mainly for educating their children—by the second generation, immigrants are adding $30 billion a year in taxes. And by the third generation they are contributing $223 billion a year to government coffers. The report concludes that “immigration has an overall positive impact on long-run economic growth in the U.S.”
This false choice masks the far bigger issue distressing working-class Americans: the income and wealth gap in this country. The top 1 percent earns 38 times more than the bottom 90 percent; and the 400 wealthiest Americans have an average net worth of $5.8 billion (and rising), while the average net worth of the bottom 40 percent has fallen to only $7,200.
What worries me about new tax breaks for the uber-wealthy is that they already have the resources to create more jobs – if they so choose. If you give them further tax breaks, will you also insist that they create new jobs that pay workers well?
Mr. President, lead so that no one need be afraid – working class Americans and immigrants alike.
J. Daryl Byler