Lieutenant Colonel (retired)
U.S. Marine Reserve
I feel compelled to respond to a letter to the editor in today’s (July 3) Winona Post titled “déjà vu.” The author’s name will not be stated here to emphasize the point that I have nothing personal against this person. But the central theme of the article cannot go unchallenged; that is that the treatment of immigrants at our southern border is comparable to what the Nazis did to the Jews in WWII. This is so outlandish on so many levels that I don’t know where to begin. First, the author cites no evidence that immigrants are being intentionally mistreated by U.S. authorities at the border. Yes, conditions there are far less than ideal. But let’s examine why conditions are poor.
First, there has been an exponential increase of immigrants from countries south of Mexico. Those promoting this influx (coyotes, etc.) for personal gain some months ago discovered that if an adult from these countries attempts to enter the U.S. as an asylum seeker with a child, immigration officials are bound by current immigration law to allow them to enter the country. This portion of the law does not apply to Mexican immigrants, only those from Central American countries. The detention facilities at the border are inadequate for such an influx. Second, the republicans for months have attempted to get a bill passed in the House that would close this loophole. Democrats have blocked this legislation. Third, the democratically controlled House has failed for months to pass a republican-proposed $4.5-billion humanitarian aid package that would have alleviated this dire situation months ago. If that had happened, the author would not have had cause for writing the “déjà vu” letter. (The aid package finally passed recently.) Fourth, as so often happens, the administration’s ideas/words are taken out of context or misrepresented. No one in the executive branch said that all immigrants are criminals, etc. It’s a fact, though, that criminal elements (e.g. MS-13 gang members) are crossing our southern border illegally. The administration is saying that, with 132,000 people apprehended in May alone, there are going to be people coming with ill intent. Is it wrong to point out that they are a threat to our citizens and we want to stop them from entering our country? Fifth, and most importantly, Hitler wanted ALL Jews exterminated. He was, horrifically, quite successful. The administration simply wants to protect the integrity of our country; the author’s comparison is nothing short of ludacris.
The United States of America remains a beacon to the world. Contrary to the author of “déjà vu,” in my opinion, our country remains that “shining city on a hill” as Reagan described 30 years ago. Why else would millions of people all over the world love to be citizens of America? I know of which I speak. I served 27 years in the U.S. Marine Reserve as an officer. I participated in several NATO exercises in the UK in the ‘80s in planning for the defense of Europe if attacked by the Soviets. I saw first-hand the depth of Western European respect for America. The United States is beloved by Western (and Eastern) Europeans for what we and our allies did in winning back their freedom under attack during WWI and II. The vast majority still do. Those who protect our southern border are good people led by good people. Are there some bad apples? Tell me a subset of the population that doesn’t have bad apples.
This author’s letter caused me to have a deep personal emotional reaction. I am a first generation of German heritage. My father immigrated to this country in the late 1920s to escape Hitler Youth. My grandmother had the vision in the mid-1920s to see the evil lurking in this man. She said to my dad and his four brothers, “Dark days are ahead for Germany — the Nazis will bring lots of trouble. You would be wise to go to America.” My dad and two brothers followed her advice; two did not. Being good Catholics, those two did not want to join the Nazis. But the SS threatened to do harm to their sister if they didn’t join. One of my uncles feigned an illness so that he would not have to fight fellow Catholics in Poland. The other died on the Eastern Front in Russia as a prisoner of war. So I hope you can see why I get just a tad testy with the outlandish comparison made by the author of “déjà vu.” I heard my German immigrant father say this many times: “I am loyal to and love my adopted country. I also have a profound fondness of my homeland.” The two concepts are not mutually exclusive.
I write this on the eve of our Independence Day, a combat veteran who served a tour of duty in the Vietnam War in 1967-1968. I am honored to be a citizen of this wonderful, magnanimous and selfless place we call the United States of America.