Blair is a small Nebraska town right north of Omaha, nestled among beautiful and wooded rolling hills along the Missouri River. It is a traditional hub of agricultural activity, several large manufacturing plants, and a very stable community of strong values. So much so that a Sunday school class of little children wrote to me about the need to help other impoverished children in countries across the world. Their letters were heartwarming, and they demonstrated the enduring, universal ideals that animate the moral imagination of Nebraska youth.
Fast forward to a jarring criminal incident that took place last month when three men were arrested in Blair driving nearly 90 miles per hour with a loaded gun stolen in Iowa. Two of them were Somali immigrants from Lincoln and Minneapolis here on visas. Both were wanted by the United States Department of Homeland Security, and between the two, had 34 previous arrests. The third man lived in Omaha.
He had 50 previous arrests. Even though the three have been in America long enough to have been arrested 94 times, they still requested a court interpreter. They have abused their privilege. They do not belong in America.
Events of this nature do not usually disrupt our communities. But we live in a world, even here in Nebraska, intertwined with many challenges abroad. Although this event is somewhat unusual in the First District, it’s another failure of our current immigration system. Thankfully the police apprehended the men without any violence. Neither the officers nor anyone from Blair were harmed. At the same time, one has to consider whether this benign outcome was also partially a function of luck.
Contrast this with a gentleman who recently called my office to personally express his heartfelt gratitude for helping relocate his family here from another war torn country. Although I do not know the fullness of his story, I imagine they faced dire circumstances. Here is a man who arrives and straightaway signals respect for the system that helped get him here.
America has a great capacity to be generous, but those who have received our generosity have an obligation. If you want to come to America, you will accept American values. If you want to come to America, you will work, provide for yourself, and integrate responsibly into dutiful citizenship. If you want to come to America, celebrate your past culture, explain it to other people, and at the same time celebrate your new one.
The children who wrote to me from Blair showed the right humanitarian impulse. Nebraskans throughout our great state have a proper desire to assist one another as well as visitors and newcomers. Our nation has generally maintained a vibrant immigration system, but chaos, disorder, and crime undermine our ability to maintain that openness.
Of our country’s priorities, one of the most pressing should be ensuring that the criminal justice system, the judicial system, and the immigration system work in concert to swiftly remove persons who have seriously transgressed our laws. This will help keep America safe, and protect the integrity of immigration policy for those properly standing in line who want to come, rebuild their lives, and contribute to society—sustaining America's generous impulse. The core principle of immigration is this: first, you must choose to be an American.