In 1987, President Ronald Reagan stood at the base of the Brandenburg Gate with a message to the world. From the heart of Berlin, a city struck by division in a world of fear and anxiety, Reagan chose to deliver a message of peace and prosperity rather than one of division.
“General Secretary Gorbachev,” he said, “if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization, come here to this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”
Berlin knows the true price of sundering a continent with barbed wire and walls — its division destroyed the prospects of millions and impeded economic, social and political progress. In the week since Donald Trump first took office, he has bypassed congress and challenged the core principles of our constitution to institute a series of ham-fisted policies and directives. Rather than working to promote unity and peace among adversaries — in this instance, the United States, Mexico and now, the Muslim world — Trump has called for the construction of a costly border wall and barred lawful entry to individuals from seven Muslim majority nations.
Many in the Republican party — the party of Reagan, a man once commended for his intellectual depth, civility and grace — have fallen in line behind a reckless and incendiary polemicist. His shallow understanding of policy and governance, rhetoric, and actions sow the seeds of division and fundamentally challenge the message Reagan delivered three decades ago — a message Wyoming politicians should continue to embrace.
Reagan affirmed that the United States was a nation of immigrants — one whose strength came from its immigrant heritage and capacity to “welcome those from other lands.” While he worked to strengthen border security and penalize employers for hiring undocumented immigrants, he extended legal amnesty to an estimated 3 million undocumented citizens — creating a pathway to citizenship for some.
“We shall continue America’s tradition as a land that welcomes peoples from other countries,” he said, adding that the US should “share in the responsibility of welcoming and resettling those who flee oppression.” From senators Alan Simpson and John Barrasso, to former Vice-President Dick Cheney, the Cowboy State’s ingrained commitment to equality and acceptance directly conflicts with Trump’s tactless approach toward immigrants and refugees.
Cheney called a Muslim ban contradictory to “everything we stand for and believe in,” upholding religious freedom as an important part of our nation’s history. During the Reagan era, Simpson was at the forefront of immigration, working toward a comprehensive plan to address the issue. Barrasso echoed Cheney’s prior statement, saying, “A religious test or ban is against everything our country stands for.”
As the Trump administration continues to devise and enact policy, Wyoming’s political leaders should not lose sight of Reagan’s commitment to immigrants and refugees, or our state’s dedication to equality for all.