Sometimes reading the online comments section at the bottom of a news story can make a guy lose his faith in his fellow man.
You keep hearing from some quarters that this is a Christian nation. But a lot of that religiosity is situational.
Last week I wrote about a couple from El Salvador who were being deported. Julio Moran and his wife, Anna Escobar, have been in the country for two decades and have raised three kids here.
He detailed autos at a car dealership. She was a cook who also took care of elderly Americans. He was a church deacon. She taught Sunday school. Last month, they bought a home in Marietta, taking a stab at the American dream.
Yeah, I’m painting them as sympathetic, as several readers accused me of doing. Guilty as charged, because that’s who they are, sympathetic folks trying to make it in life. They aren’t the “bad hombres” that Candidate Trump said he’d go after.
On June 13, they went into the local Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office for an annual meeting, as they had for several years. They thought they were on a path to renew work permits and, ultimately, receive some sort of official status so they could stop having to “look over their shoulders” — as the head of ICE recently suggested.
They never left from that visit. Last week, the federales (ours) dragged Moran screaming from his bed in the detention center and put him onto a plane to Central America. His wife, unless a stay is granted, could soon be flying south, too.
I interviewed the couple’s 17-year-old, American-born daughter, Tania, a rising high school senior, who is bewildered and sad and lost and unsure what her future holds.
Immigration is an emotionally loaded subject. There’s a view that “illegals” (in the terminology of many opponents) are increasingly swarming our institutions, driving up crime and stealing our jobs, although the number of such immigrants has held steady at 11 million for nearly a decade.
Anyone looking at the issue logically can reason that there’s no way more than 11 million people can be rounded up and sent back to their native lands. (Barack Obama, called “Deporter in Chief,” sent away more than 2.5 million unauthorized immigrants during his stint in the Oval Office, more than any other president. Trump is now trying to outdo him, grabbing otherwise law-abiding folks as they show up for “routine” ICE visits — a surefire way to drive them further into the shadows.)
It’s a tough issue, one that needs nuance, discussion and a thoughtful approach to solving. Remember, even President Ronald Reagan, the Patron Saint of Conservatism, created an amnesty program for unauthorized immigrants who had been here more than four years. Today, two-thirds of that 11 million have been here a decade or better. They have put down roots. There’s got to be a way to deal with them humanely, right?
The overwhelming response to my column about the Morans’ plight — among the more than 700 commenters — can be summed up as, “Good! They got what they deserved! Criminals.”
Many comments came from Facebook, where you can click a person’s profile and often learn a bit about them. Pictures of guns are fairly common among such folks. So are Bible phrases and even illustrations of the Lord, the non-immigrant-looking Lord, that is.
I’m certain that if I looked long enough, I could have found an illustration of Jesus, Glock strapped to his flowing robes, dragging off a handcuffed non-citizen.
What first caught my eye, besides the garden variety, knuckle-dragging anonymous trolls like WPWW — “I couldn’t give a rat’s @$$ for the plight of illegal invaders…or libtards” — was several pleasant-looking grandmotherly ladies weighing in.
There was the fit white-haired lady pictured with a cute kid and a horse. “Guilty law breakers, drug gangs from Mexico, are what I’ve seen on the news,” she shouted from her keyboard. “We have laws for a reason.”
A woman who could be a body double for Mayberry’s Aunt Bea, smiles lovingly from behind a bouquet of flowers. “Break the law……pay the price !!!!!!” she wrote.
From another: “As a deacon, he failed. His moral integrity was compromised the minute he broke the law and came into this country illegally. And he continued that breach by staying here after he was given his day in court and told to leave. I wouldn’t want him as a spiritual leader, that is for sure.”
A Packers fan of Puerto Rican descent, was judgmental in a harsh, biblical way, “Shame on the deacon. He will go to hell.”
A retired police captain who now does accounting work, had earlier posted his enthusiasm for Christ. But he wasn’t going to split hairs on the subject: “Send them ALL back. They had 20 years to become a citizen!”
A woman at Kennesaw State University, where immigrant Jessica Colotl attended and fights deportation, was also having none of it: “They broke the law when they came here. Continued to break the law for YEARS. Sorry — NOT sorry! Deacon, Sunday school teacher not withstanding, illegal is ILLEGAL!”
Occasionally, a reader would make a plea for sympathy or even a semblance of sanity: “These people worked hard, paid taxes, raised children and bought a house. What sort of heartless country have we become?” said LeeW.
Anonymous troll “youwantmetopay” was having none of that: “@LeeW Please go with them.”
Polls show most people, even Trump supporters, want a reasonable solution to this mess. They should speak up.