By Daniel Smith
Until the recent horrific tragedy in Charlottsville, Virginia, brought renewed attention to issues of race, diversity and white supremacist groups’ self-empowerment to demonstrate their hateful, devisive agenda, Salida had been in the national news over a shocking immigration incident.
At the end of July, eight German exchange students headed for residents’ homes in Salida, as other students had in previous years, were stopped at Denver International Airport by immigration authorities, detained overnight in holding cells away from the airport and deported back to Germany the next day.
Pressed for reasons for the unprecedented action, immigration officials insisted the student were coming in and “taking work away from U.S. citizens” – illegal since they had no work visas.
Susan Masterson, who has coordinated the exchange program for a number of years, was quoted saying she reached out to State Rep. Jim Wilson, Fifth District Congressman Doug Lamborn, Governor John Hickenlooper and Senator Michael Bennet. No one could stop the unceremonious deportations of the students.
Immigration officials said they were trying to enter on tourist visas, which was illegal, but it’s unclear just what “jobs” the students would take from U.S. citizens while here for just four weeks. It was the first time any such complication had arisen in the rewarding exchange program here.
Masterson was quoted as saying she felt the student’s treatment was definitely a result of the Trump administration’s contentious rulings regarding illegal and legal immigration. She said Lamborn’s staff did all they could, to no avail.
I reached out to Lamborn’s district office for reaction. This comment came from Communications Director Jarred Rego:
“Congressman Lamborn’s dedicated staff work diligently to assist constituents with a variety of immigration and visa related issues. Many issues are resolved favorably, some are not. In this case, the Congressman’s team utilized the assistance options that were available. To respect the privacy of the individuals involved, further comment would not be appropriate,” he stated.
There was no additional comment to a question on whether Lamborn himself thought the action taken by Immigration in Denver in holding the students in cells overnight, dressed in jail uniforms before they were flown back to Germany was appropriate, or whether those procedures should be subject to official review.
As of this writing, there are efforts underway locally to reach out to the students and their families to offer support and perhaps some reimbursement for their expenses incurred, and that could help finance a return trip next year.
Perhaps that will help ease what must be a very bitter first impression regarding the U.S. and its militant immigration stance.
Since the repugnant and tragic Charlottesville incident, I again reached out to Lamborn’s office for comment. On Aug. 16, the following comment was posted to his district website, in reaction to President Trump’s Charlottsville remarks:
“The KKK, Neo-Nazis, and White Supremacists and Nationalists are abhorrent. Statements that provide even indirect comfort to these merchants of evil are unacceptable and wrong.”
To me, (and I can be wrong) this sounds like a not-so-thinly-veiled criticism of some of the president’s remarks, joining some of the other critical statements from both sides of the aisle in Washington and from state houses around the country.
On another ongoing controversy of an international nature; the disturbing war of words between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, Lamborn posted this comment on Aug. 8 after appearing on the Fox Business Channel:
“With the recent provocations by North Korea, I believe all options need to be on the table to address its threats. I think it is important that we keep adding to and upgrading our missile defenses both overseas and in the United States to provide a robust defense. I was pleased to see that over the weekend China has finally started to make some progress by agreeing to new UN sanctions to limit the cash available to the North Korean regime. I recently participated in a Congressional Delegation trip to South Korea as part of my work on the House Armed Services Committee. That trip was vital in learning more about the persistent threat North Korea, its artillery, and its dangerous instability pose to South Korea and our other allies in the region.”
There was no comment on President Trump’s own challenging rhetoric on North Korea that had been criticized by some in congress as provocative.