Holly Richardson: Love one another — unless they’re immigrants?

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Masagid Abdalla, a refugee from Sudan, discusses her dream of becoming a dentist. She is currently enrolled at Salt Lake Community College while helping support her family. Abdalla was one of the recipients of a certificate of achievement during the Women of the World eighth annual award ceremony at the Salt Lake County building in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Dec. 8, 2018. The event is a celebration of successes including educational, service, and employment milestones by refugee women.

Salt Lake Tribune reporter Taylor Stevens just published on article on the hate being thrown at refugees in Utah since President Donald Trump was elected. Turns out their fears about Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric were justified. People who may have felt embarrassed about expressing anti-immigrant views before Trump took office seem to now feel justified in verbalizing their racist, anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant views.

It’s not a view that Utahns should have. Whether you are LDS, Catholic, Muslim or atheist, whether you are Republican, Democrat, libertarian or unaffiliated, basic human decency requires that we not be hateful jerks to people who are different than us.

Anti-immigrant rhetoric is not new. In the museum on Ellis Island, we learn that the “Know-Nothings,” an actual political party from the 1850s, protested loudly that immigrants were "stealing jobs” from American workers. The immigrants were German and Irish.

Looking back in history, anti-immigrant rhetoric was not always a GOP thing.

In 1864, the Republican party platform stated, “Foreign immigration which in the past has added so much to the wealth, resources, and increase of power to the nation … should be fostered and encouraged.”

But, by the time Calvin Coolidge became president in 1923, anti-immigrant rhetoric had set in. He signed a law putting quotas in place, allowing only the “right kind” of people into the country. He lamented that the country was becoming a ,“dumping ground” and pledged that restricting immigration was for the purpose of protecting ourselves, declaring, “America must remain American.”

Political cartoons of the day depicted Europeans — German, Irish and Italian — as the dregs of society. One political “cartoon” said the “way to dispose” of Italian immigrants was to put them in a cage and drown them. Nice.

Now, the GOP has firmly entrenched itself in anti-immigrant territory. Ironic, especially considering the first lady is an immigrant. Just the “right kind,” I guess. Mia Love was right on the money when she said “Republicans have failed to bring our message to minorities.” Um, yeah. A friend of mine who is American Indian has had people scream at her to “go back home to Mexico.” Except she was here first, of course.

Here in Utah, our state was founded by immigrants and refugees, fleeing the vilest of oppression and violence. If you were a parent who knew your child could be shot for his or her religion, because “nits make lice,” would you not flee? If your wife or daughter was gang-raped until she became permanently disabled or died, would you not flee? Of course you would.

It’s what makes the hateful rhetoric displayed toward today’s immigrants and refugees so sad. We, of all people, should know better.

In case you are wondering, Utah is home to approximately 65,000 refugees and a total of almost a quarter-million immigrants. They paid $1.4 billion in taxes, with a spending power of $4.7 billion, and employ more than 31,000 people.

I remember then-Rep. Greg Hughes saying in 2011 that if we were going to have a “high wall,” we also needed a wide gate. Let’s work on the gate before we work on the wall. We need a legal immigration system that works, like the Bracero program back in the day. We need to eliminate ridiculous 20-plus-year waiting times. We need to fix a system that allows students in to be educated at our best universities and then kicks them out of the country to go compete against us. We need politicians to stop spewing hateful (and false) rhetoric and actually go to work on fixing the problem. Solutions are there, but most federal lawmakers show little desire to get anything done besides chest-thumping.

And really, Republicans — you had the House, the Senate and the presidency until last week and you couldn’t get it done. Why are you now blaming the Democrats? It was a bad idea in December and it’s still a bad idea in January.

(Photo Courtesy Holly Richardson)

Holly Richardson, a regular contributor to The Salt Lake Tribune, says no, it’s not “loving” to force people to stay in a place where they are in danger. And remember, gaining refugee status is a multiyear process, while being in the U.S. without documentation is an infraction. Like speeding.