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Hot topic: immigration

Hot topic: immigration

Contributing author: Russ Florence, board chairman, OCCJ

As a teenager, I spent summers working on a massive horse ranch in southern Oklahoma. It was hot, hard work – hauling hay, cleaning barn stalls, fixing fence. But it was often enjoyable, thanks to my amiable co-workers, Manuel, Juan and Miguel.

They lived in a shack and worked in hundred-degree heat, six and a half days a week. But they never complained. They laughed and sang while they worked. They were full of joy. They were grateful to be in America, earning a paycheck to send to their families in Mexico.

I have no idea whether they were legal residents. To me, it didn’t matter. They were here to make their lives better, and they didn’t harm anyone in doing so.

Their reasons are a microcosm of what’s happening on the Southern Border and at Fort Sill. Thousands of people from Central and South America are flooding our borders, not only to seek a better life, but often to escape one that is life-threatening.

Sadly, we live in a culture now that is divisive, where battles are drawn along political lines, and where ideologies outweigh our concern for others. We’re far too quick to judge.

Much of society’s default is to say “no” to immigrants. But what if we flipped it? What if our reflex was to say “yes,” and then determine the best course of action?

Recently the New York Times ran an extensive multi-media piece on immigrants who came to the U.S. and live along the I-35 corridor. Take a look and see how they answered the question, “What does it mean to be American?” Chances are, their answers were very much like Manuel’s, Juan’s and Miguel’s.

It starts with dialogue and understanding. Last month, teen-agers at OCCJ’s Camp Anytown engaged in a lively but respectable discussion about immigration and all its complexities. We encourage you, your families and friends to do the same.

Click here to view the New York Times piece: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/us/the-way-north.html?module=Search&mabReward=relbias%3Ar%2C%7B%222%22%3A%22RI%3A12%22%7D#p/39

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