Tom Selders Immigration Reform

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Immigration reform is one of the most contentious issues in America today, provoking angry debates in Congress, fueling tension in town hall meetings across the country, and even dividing families. In 2007, as the battle over immigration reform played out in Congress, Tom Selders, the Republican mayor of Greeley, Colorado, put a local face on the issue. Selders spoke out on Capitol Hill about the devastating effect of an immigration raid at a Greeley meatpacking plant and urged Congress to enact comprehensive immigration reform. As a result, he faced a backlash of criticism at home. Selders knew his public stance on immigration was politically risky, particularly since he was seeking reelection in the upcoming mayoral race. Nonetheless, as…show more content…
Eyewitnesses reported that those detained were “treated like animals” (Cooper). They were handcuffed and shackled, denied access to food, water, and bathrooms, and were not allowed to contact their families (“ICE”). 2015 Winning Essay: John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Essay Contest for High School Students Shortly after the raid, many of those arrested were deported. Others remained in legal limbo for more than a year awaiting a hearing (Warner). On the day of the raid, more than 200 Greeley children returned home to find one or both parents gone (Lofholm). Selders sympathized with the children—many of whom were U.S. citizens—who were “devastated by their parents being arrested and detained,” but he initially did not speak out (Riccardi). When John F. Kennedy first entered Congress, he was told that “the way to get along is to go along” (Kennedy 4). These words were equally applicable to the situation in Greeley, where local leaders faced pressure to not “rock the boat” by taking positions contrary to the prevailing political sentiment (Thompson). However, as more details emerged about the raid and as community relations degenerated over the immigration issue, Selders knew he could not remain silent. He…show more content…
Yet, he also knew that promoting the dignity and respect of all residents, especially those he “felt had not been well represented,” was the “right thing to do” (qtd. in Bernuth). Selders also hoped to prompt meaningful debate about immigration reform and move the discussion past divisive, partisan bickering and toward constructive solutions (Selders). In Profiles in Courage, Kennedy commended elected officials who had the political courage to break with their parties and place “their convictions ahead of their careers” (206). By taking a stand in favor of a more humane immigration policy, Selders did just that. In the wake of his trip, Selders faced tremendous political repercussions. He was vilified on local talk radio (Riccardi), and received angry emails and “more hate calls than I care to mention” (qtd. in Quintero). Some accused him of wanting to turn Greeley into a sanctuary for illegal immigrants. Others called him “traitor scum” and derisively asked, “Have you thought about running for mayor of your favorite country, Mexico?” (“Swift Justice”). There were threats of a recall petition and demands that Selders withdraw his reelection bid (“Residents”).
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