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Caravans? Americans have rights, too

A Honduran migrant and her daughter peer through

A Honduran migrant and her daughter peer through the U.S. border wall, moments before suddenly squeezing through a gap and pushing through fencing to exit on the U.S. side, in Tijuana, Mexico, Sunday, Dec. 9, 2018. Credit: AP/Rebecca Blackwell

I had a fiery conversation with a Lyft driver who damned this country and its stance on immigration that really drove home how divided we are as Americans about immigration.

And I still don’t understand why we see things so differently.

I believe those who were here in 2008 when Barack Obama took office should be left alone and a path to citizenship cleared for them immediately.

For those who came after or are coming in now, I am in favor of President Trump’s stance that we must get a grip on our borders and know who is coming into the country — and they must come through the front door and not down the chimney.

I do not see this as breaking in any way America’s commitment as a country that welcomes all people from other countries. Though I believe the majority of immigrants at the borders are looking for a better life, I also believe we have too many false faces with false attitudes coming over mountains, by sea and through airports to get into America to do us harm.

The Lyft driver in question — who appeared to be in his early 30s — told me his parents came here from Ethiopia and after he was born, returned to Ethiopia where he was raised.

He said America had no right to stop people at the border, had no right to prevent people from entering the country and had no right to arrest and deport people out.

When I asked him about the rights of America and Americans to not only protect their country but to have a say on who and how people should come into the country, he scoffed. He said the laws make no sense because America was an open border country and people should be allowed to come and go as they choose.

He had a lot more to say about the country where he was born but not raised and when I left his car, I was fuming. I find this seems to be the attitude of many illegal immigrants already in the country and some of those coming: They have rights and Americans have none.

It was the story of Nury Chavarria that really brought it to my attention. For those who don’t remember, she was the mother of four who was in the country illegally, was ordered to leave, and rather then be deported back to Guatemala and separated from her American-born children, took sanctuary inside the Iglesia de Dios Pentecostal church in Fair Haven.

It was hard not to be captivated by her story — a mother with no criminal history persecuted by a superpower country who was forced to hide in a church while waiting on a judge’s decision.

Her cause brought the state’s firepower — Malloy, Blumenthal, Murphy, DeLauro — to her side. The media here and around the nation portrayed her as a sympathetic victim being bullied by the mood of the country.

It was great stuff and I was pulling for her. It had a happy ending since she was allowed to stay (so far) with her children, who then ranged in age from 9 to 21.

But for some Americans, there was a side to Chavarria’s story that didn’t get a lot of ink and continues to be a thorn in their side: she entered the country illegally and when it was discovered by ICE, was ordered to leave. Instead, she thumbed her nose at the laws of the United States and settled down before eventually throwing herself on the sympathies of the nation.

It doesn’t sound pretty put that way, but that is exactly what she did and it can be argued, she was rewarded for it — and others who face deportation have followed her lead and sought refuge inside a church.

I believe most Americans agree with legal immigration and for the most part, walk in solidarity with those traveling in and toward the bright light of liberty.

But I also believe that Americans strongly believe in the laws of this country and there is a right way for immigrants to do it: the American way.

Caravans? Americans have rights, too.

James Walker is the New Haven Register’s senior editor.