This is about people | Perry Gershon for Congress
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This is about people

This week, I traveled to Tucson, Arizona with the rabbi and congregants from my Sag Harbor synagogue. We joined with Borderlinks, and received presentations from the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, the Mayor of Tucson, and a writer with the Arizona Daily Star to better understand our immigration situation and crisis.

We are in an immigration and humanitarian crisis. The situation is not new, but it is getting worse. Thanks to Donald Trump and Lee Zeldin's inhumane immigration policies and plans, there has been no improvement.

For years, foreigners have sought refuge in America looking for a better life, whether seeking better economic conditions, opportunity, or escape from persecution. As a Jew who is cognizant of the Holocaust and the tragedy of the 288 passengers on the SS St Louis (which was denied permission to disembark in North America) and other Jewish refugees who were turned away from our shores, I feel a heightened duty to protect those seeking asylum. Further, as I see the conflict over immigration ripping our great nation apart, I hope to develop more coherent ideas towards what a bipartisan immigration bill could look like.

One thing that's abundantly clear: even though Trump has sped along a humanitarian disaster by separating families and imprisoning children, our border has been a challenge for quite some time.

Solving it is one of the most important challenges we face as a people. That was abundantly clear before this trip, and it is abundantly clear after.

On our travels, we met a man named Manuel Morales, who has lived for decades on the Mexican side and works in the U.S. He told us his story, of sweatshops run by U.S. companies on the Mexican side of the border paying Mexican minimum wage.

We spoke about the school children crossing from the U.S. into Mexico late in the afternoon. Most, if not all, are U.S. citizens born to undocumented parents who were deported back to Mexico. The families live in border towns like Nogales. The children attend U.S. schools as citizens, but travel back to Mexico to be with their families at night. This is a logical extension of our current immigration policy, but not something people typically think of — or see.

We considered the harsh desert attempts at crossing into America, and the unseen risks faced daily by people wanting a better life for their families. The dark truth: the U.S. relies on death and fear as an increasing deterrent to border crossing. The remains of numerous people who perished in the desert on their journey are often found. Increased U.S. surveillance forces would-be migrants to spend more time in the mountains, extending travel time, reliance on limited supplies of food and water, exposure to the elements, and risk of getting lost.

The broader story: immigration policy is complicated, but the heart of it isn't. This is about people. Which is the problem with Trump and Zeldin's positions: they are about bluster and terror, not humanity.

Many migrants risk everything fleeing danger. Some don't survive the journey. And the more people we turn away, it seems the more people who want to come in. We cannot ignore the root causes of people fleeing their country, whether they be political, economic or climate.

This issue is not going away. No amount of family separations or victim-blaming of asylum-seekers changes that.

Increasing numbers of people seek access to America's promise of freedom and a better life. We must find a bipartisan approach to fix a system which is breaking, if not fully broken. Neither open borders nor mass deportations are the answer. We must find a solution which is both humane to those seeking entry and fair to those of us who are already paying more than our share of the burden. And we cannot ignore the root problems abroad which are driving the demand for entry into the United States.

That's just one of the reasons why I'm running, and why I am asking for your support as we bring humanity back to the immigration debate in Congress.


Posted on May 24, 2019.

For 25 years, I have been a common-sense businessman — not a career politician — so I look at things differently. I know about fixing dysfunction. It starts with hard work, a commitment to results, and perseverance — not scoring cheap political points. We can work together to provide opportunity and create an economy that works for all of us.

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