Statement by Mary Meg McCarthy, Executive Director, Heartland Alliance's National Immigrant Justice Center
As a human rights organization that has been entrenched in the U.S. immigrant rights movement for 30 years, we’ve seen both the best and the worst of America’s treatment of immigrants. Every year, thanks to America’s history as a country that was founded by and welcomes immigrants and refugees fleeing persecution, we are able to provide legal services to more than 10,000 men, women, and children who have come here seeking more secure lives, who are drawn by America’s promise as a place that welcomes people of all faiths and backgrounds, and who dream about pursuing education, building businesses, working, and raising families in peace. They strive for the day they can give back to the society that has welcomed them. While there are many ways in which the U.S. immigration system must be improved to be more fair and humane, it is not lost on us that the reason we can do this work, and represent these aspiring Americans, is that our country has a strong historical and legal foundation to do so.
The anti-Muslim rhetoric that has taken hold in our country’s political discourse in recent weeks is un-American and undermines the historical and moral foundation of our country. Proposals of state-sponsored discrimination and alienation of any group should alarm all Americans who value freedom of religion and speech. These are the types of policies the asylum seekers and refugees NIJC represents have fled – including Muslims who are fleeing the horrors of ISIS.
Our country’s immigration system has evolved through a constant negotiation of how we uphold our values of liberty and our legacy of providing refuge to those fleeing persecution, with the need to defend our own security. Promoting the categorical exclusion of any group based on their nationality or religion reveals a shameful ignorance of both U.S. immigration law and foreign policy, and neglects the disastrous cultural and security impacts that would be wrought by such policies.