How will we consider Syria?

Fall weather, Thanks­giving holiday, autumn leaves falling, newly planted wheat fields turning green; these are some of the things that make the heart glad. It is a favorite time of year.

This year, though I enjoy watching leaves turning color and rejoice as once green fields of soybeans and corn turn golden, as wheat emerges from its sleep, creating a patchwork of green among the golden fields, I sense not all is well.

Thanksgiving inspires us to reflect on the goodness that surrounds us, to appreciate our good fortune, to pause and give thanks to our Creator.

This year, as we celebrate the season, refugees from Syria and other Middle Eastern countries, fleeing the holocaust of war, political and religious cleansing, the struggle to survive in makeshift camps, pinning their hopes that one or more countries will open their borders and allow them to resettle. Though some countries have allowed limited numbers to immigrate, the doors are closed, creating a massive host of people without homes—men, women and children.

Today, more than 11 million undocumented immigrants are living within our own borders, and as the result of recent elections, may soon learn their fate. President-elect Donald Trump will soon reveal whether he intends to carry out one of his campaign promises: massive, wholesale deportation of all undocumented immigrants. If he does, this represents one of the largest, if not the largest, forced translocation of people in the United States.

Knowing this, how do we celebrate Thanksgiving? Is this country not the land where our ancestors emigrated, and are we not the beneficiaries of previous generation’s compassion?

As a descendant of a family of German, Dutch, Russian, Mennonite immigrants, having fled Russia prior to the upheaval of the Communist revolution, I am truly not at ease with our nation’s current policy, nor am I supportive of Mr. Trump’s proposed policy.

His policy reflects a past era when our country closed its doors, not only to Jews fleeing Germany trying to escape the onslaught that created the great holocaust, but also its policy prior to and during World War I. Mennonites were not allowed into this country as well, and had to turn to Canada and elsewhere for refuge. After all, they spoke German, and might be spies, or worse, saboteurs and terrorists. They were the enemy.

I remember listening to my mother telling the story of a close relative on her mother’s side. Having moved to Winnipeg, Man., prior to the outbreak of hostilities, this wealthy relative stood on the boardwalk of the train depot and saw the mass of humanity disembarking the train that picked them up after the long voyage from a distant port across the Atlantic.

Moved to tears, knowing these people lost everything they owned, he went to the local bank, withdrew most of his money and gave everything he had to these people.

Today, there is a thriving community of Mennonite farmers and a host of other professions, thanks in part, to the kind, compassionate heart of this man, and possibly many others like him who gave of their time and resources to the resettlement process.

Looking ahead, perhaps there’s a solution, rather than a difficult, radical approach that may only serve to divide our nation further.

Radical translocation is costly, requiring an expenditure of capital and expansion of a governmental bureaucracy that, not only we cannot afford, but also runs contrary to any conservative ideology for smaller, more efficient government.

Plus, it will hurt the national economy, requiring an immediate adjustment in employment in all non-farm and agricultural sectors. This will translate into a multi-billion dollar loss at the same time.

Rather than translocation, surely we can create an alternative option that is more humane, yet satisfies the need to establish lasting respect for our nation’s laws.

Something that requires background checks for undocumented workers, winnowing out the criminal element.

Something that requires documented alternative community service, enhancing the local areas and demonstrating a sincere, genuine love, respect and loyalty to these United States. It should not be demeaning work, nor humiliating nor disrespectful of their culture.

Plus, an eventual permanent waiver for deportation, once all other terms are satisfied, placing the immigrant on an eventual path to citizenship, with all the rights and privileges afforded therein.

In addition, reassert control over the borders via all rational means necessary, reinforcing current laws regarding unlawful entry.

Plus, reform immigration policy, creating necessary protocol for background checks, realistic import numbers and quick turn-around of applications for emigration.

Thoughts? Reactions?

By the way, I have not read any credible solution to this immigration “problem” that even comes close to addressing the matter in a fair, humane and reasonable manner. It has been a political football for too long, since well before George W. Bush became president. It is time to kick this one into the end zone and end the game.

Tweak it, change it, or offer a better solution. I invite serious, well-thought conversations and alternate opinions, without the expletives and derogatory comments. It is time we come up with something better than what our president-elect is proposing.

This challenge is my Thanksgiving gift to you. Enjoy this holiday with family and friends.

Paul Penner, former president of the National Association of Wheat Growers, farms in the Hillsboro area. He has been active statewide and nationally regarding agricultural policy.