WASHINGTON — The Japanese American Citizens League issued the following statement Wednesday in response to President Donald Trump’s first State of the Union speech the night before.
Although stated in measured tones, there is no mistaking the continued attack on immigrants from President Trump.
The president prefaced his remarks about immigration by painting a picture of immigrants as pouring into the country illegally, taking low-paying jobs from Americans, and committing violent crimes. While we are sympathetic to victims of gang violence, the reality is that gang members are a small percentage of the immigrant population. JACL deplores the president’s use of demagoguery to paint immigrants as people to be feared.
The president proceeded to reiterate the administration’s immigration proposal, which trades the hopes of legal family immigration for a path to citizenship for DACA recipients. The proposal to curtail family immigration is antithetical to American values historically based on family immigration. Limiting the definition of family to spouses and minor children demonstrates a disregard for the value of family.
The Gentleman’s Agreement of 1907 between Japan and the United States established a family immigration policy similar to what the president proposes now. This eventually led to a full ban in the Immigration Act of 1924. These restrictions were stoked by the same rhetoric resulting in the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and mirroring the words used by the president last night.
Our country has a long history of pitting our nativist tendencies against the most recent immigrant group. As descendants of immigrants once subject to discriminatory immigration laws, we call upon our lawmakers to reject this simplistic perspective and ensure the United States remains a welcoming country that affirms the value of the diversity that immigration brings and the importance of keeping immigrant families together.
DACA recipients represent all of our ideals for what an immigrant represents with the hopes and aspirations of building a life in this country as a student or young professional. We can support those dreams without closing the opportunity for others.
President Trump emphasized his compassion. Compassion for one group does not preclude compassion for another. The lives of our own nation’s poor are not bargaining chips to be traded for the lives of hopeful immigrants.