Op-Ed: Our Country of Immigrants by John LaFerla

In the midst of the greatest displacement of human beings since World War II, in the midst of vast numbers of people around the world who are deprived, distressed, and distraught, the richest and most powerful nation on earth has turned a cold shoulder. We Americans are allowing ourselves to be guided by fear and distrust instead of reaching out in love and compassion.

Since the terrorist attacks in Paris and Lebanon a few weeks ago, the majority of U.S. Governors and the U.S. House of Representatives have come out with positions making it harder for the long-suffering and oppressed people of Syria to come into our country. Shame on them. Incredibly, this includes our Congressman, Andy Harris, whose father was born in Hungary and was welcomed into our country in spite of his past associations, and our Governor, Larry Hogan, whose wife is from South Korea.

It reminds me of a cartoon some years ago showing a group of people who have clambered up ladders onto a high raft now pushing the ladders away even as more people are trying to climb up – a vivid and chilling depiction of our diminished sense of collective morality. What ever happened to “Do unto others”?

One observer cogently noted that the entire population of the United States is composed of just three groups of people. The first are the native American Indians who European invaders nearly annihilated. Next are those who were brought here against their will, wrapped in chains, to toil as slaves. The third group is made up entirely of people who came here from somewhere else, or their descendants. Like the majority of us, I am in the third group: not one of my 4 grandparents was raised in the U.S.

So it is stunning, given the reality that we are truly a country of immigrants, that we are so fearful and hostile to those who – just like us or our forebears — now want to re-settle here and become new Americans.

The fear-based argument that among the Syrian refugees a handful might want to do us harm is no excuse to further punish masses of people who have seen beheadings in their neighborhoods, or who have withstood gassing from their government forces, or who happened to be in the way when French, or Russian, or U.S. war planes drop their bombs.
Terrorism can spring up from anywhere as we well know, so slowing the immigration process will not make any significant improvement in our national security. In fact we will lose much more than we gain since our latest surge in anxiety and hostility to foreigners will only serve to diminish our global reputation as a strong and generous nation.

What’s worse is that by taking actions that on the surface seem to be “for our protection”, we are actually hurting our own economy and culture. Our meager approach to helping refugees during this extreme humanitarian crisis is all the more ironic since our country was built on the extra energy that comes from being a melting pot of cultures. Think of our motto, E Pluribus, Unum, which translates to “out of many, one.” As Maryland State Senator Jim Rosapepe has recently written, the ideas, skills, and hard work of immigrants is “America’s secret sauce.” We, as a nation, would benefit from more immigration, not less.

The stirring image of the Statue of Liberty holding her torch high to welcome newcomers [remember Lazarus’ poetic lines “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free”?] is now in stark contrast to the surge of xenophobia and harsh new immigration policies.

Ronald Reagan and others have compared America to a “bright beacon on a hill”; sadly that mighty beacon is now reduced to just a tiny penlight.

Making it harder for others to become US citizens is not helpful for us at home and not going to protect us. It will hurt our own economy, it will hurt our self-image and hurt our global image, and it will increase the suffering abroad. Politicians know these facts, but act in a contrary fashion because of perceived public anxiety and fear.

We must hold our leaders accountable to reverse their stance opposing immigration. Instead, America needs to step up the pace of providing refuge and asylum to the struggling masses. At this critical time, we need our leaders to take the humane steps necessary to protect human life, even if it does not poll well. We need leaders who will enable us to show our better selves to the world rather than simply react to the news of the week.

All of us want to be proud of our country, but looking at our self-defeating kneejerk reaction to a small group of terrorists, I feel ashamed. Let’s turn this around and do the right thing – let us open our hearts and our doors to those who are suffering.

John LaFerla is a retired physician in Chestertown. He has been a former candidate for Congress in the First District of Maryland.

Letter to the Editor: Veto HB 1168, Support Green Energy Jobs

Dear Editor:

Maryland’s future lies in green energy jobs. We can and must compete in the industries that will be the economic engine of the 21st Century – industries that will power Maryland while creating high-paying jobs and incidentally help save the planet.

This is why Governor Martin O’Malley should veto HB 1168.

This bill places a 15 month moratorium on the development of wind turbine energy within a 56 mile radius of the Naval Air Station, Patuxent River located in St. Mary’s County.  That means an area of 9,852 square miles could not be used for wind farms.   It would stall, and maybe permanently end, a wind energy project that has been in development across the Bay in Somerset County. Simply put, this proposed law is a job killer

The average family income for citizens in Somerset County is tens of thousands below that in other Maryland counties, and 3,892 families there live in poverty. The Great Bay Wind Energy Center is projected to produce revenues of $39 million annually, which would significantly help the struggling county. The project would stimulate the job market and further confirm Maryland’s commitment to the environment and to clean energy jobs.

The bill’s supporters argue that the turbines could interfere with sensitive radar testing performed at Pax River. But Pioneer Green, the developer of The Great Bay Wind Energy Center, has indicated that they would stop the wind turbines when base officials deem it necessary, particularly when they want to test their radar. Pax River and its neighbors have been working out issues that protect national security while making sure the base remains a good neighbor for more than seventy years now. There’s no reason we can’t find a workable compromise on this.

HB 1168 is not needed, and it would have terrible consequences.  Somerset County needs economic development, and the entire country needs more sources of clean, renewable energy.

As a citizen of the Eastern Shore, and as a candidate for US Congress to represent District 1, I strongly urge our Governor to veto this bill.

John LaFerla

Congressional Candidate John LaFerla Opens Campaign Office in Centreville

On Sunday, May 18th Congressional Candidate John LaFerla will join Former Congressman Wayne Gilchrest and other elected officials for the opening of his campaign office in Centreville, Maryland.

The event is scheduled for 2pm – 4pm at 202 Coursevall Drive, Suite 107. John and guests will speck specifically about the economy, healthcare, and the Bay. There will be an opportunity for questions.

The event is open to the public and will include plenty of food and drink. All are encouraged to attend and pick up a “LaFerla for Congress” yard sign!

John LaFerla and his wife have made Kent County their home for over twelve years. They are proud to have raised their family here. After more than 40 years in medicine and having delivered over 5,000 babies, John recently retired from Gynecology and Public Health. He will work across the aisle to bring good paying jobs to the district, protect the Bay, and strengthen Medicare and Social Security.