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Thursday, November 27, 2014
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Published: Friday, 7/25/2014 - Updated: 4 months ago

COMMENTARY

Bring huddled masses here, especially kids

BY KEITH C. BURRIS
COLUMNIST FOR THE BLADE

I gave up watching TV news, unless I am in an airport or a bar, some years ago.

Some broadcast journalism is in the tradition of Edward R. Murrow, like the PBS program FRONTLINE. But most of it is a hysterical, and repetitive, headline service: This bad thing has happened. We are going to tell you it has happened 47 times today. But we feel no particular obligation to delve into why it might have happened or what you as a citizen can do about it.

People really want to feel there is something they can do about some of the tragedies and outrages in this world.

We can’t do much, in Toledo, about the Ukraine, or the horrific downing of an airliner full of innocent people.

But there may be something we in Toledo can do about the 50,000 unaccompanied Central American immigrant children caught along the U.S.-​Mexico border.

Like several other cities — Denver, Milwaukee, and Syracuse, N.Y., are three — we could offer to take them in.

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock is seeking a federal grant from the Office of Refugee Resettlement to house some of the children at its 54-bed Family Crisis Center.

Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner hopes to house some of them in a former Catholic convent in her city.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett is looking to place some of the children in private homes with families.

Why couldn’t Toledo, as a city and as a community, also formally make an offer to take in some of these children? We have embraced the role of a “compassionate community,” we are a city of immigrants, we have a sizable and vibrant Mexican-American community.

I’d like to see Toledo go even further.

I’d like to see us make more of an effort to reach out to illegal immigrants — help them get on a path toward citizenship so they are not separated from their kids by being sent back across the border. A “sanctuary city” ought to be a place where hard-working people are welcomed — and helped — no matter their background.

That’s partly how we built this city, and most of the great American industrial cities, back in the day.

I’d like to see us adopt the “welcoming initiative” that a number of U.S. cities and towns have adopted, whereby legal immigrants are actually recruited to come here. Columbus, Minneapolis, and St. Paul have all done this, though not without controversy and difficulty. There have often been racial and cultural tensions. And we need to be sure there are jobs for folks we invite to Toledo.

A fledgling national pro-immigration initiative has been showing the film Welcome to Shelbyville to everyone it can. I watched it recently, and it’s great. It shows how the influx of Somalis into a small southern town at first frightened the community and brought out much fear and resentment.

But through conversation — a couple of big town meetings and many small -group home meetings — two very different cultures were able to build bridges and foster neighborliness.

We must prepare the way, culturally and economically. But, in addition to factories and new businesses, Toledo needs people. Why not a targeted, planned pro-immigrant initiative? Why not begin with taking in children alone and forsaken at the gates of the greatest free nation on Earth?

Keith C. Burris is a columnist for The Blade.

Contact him at: kburris@theblade.com or 419-724-6266.



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