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Remember they are people, just like us

Millions of words have been written and spoken about the U.S.-Mexico border recently. The Trump administration’s “zero-tolerance policy” has been in the news for weeks. The forced separations and the attempts to reunify families have been on the front pages of national newspapers and will continue to be.

I would guess most Mississippians — and most Lincoln Countians — support Trump’s immigration policies. And I would not disagree with their argument that our country needs immigration reform.

Lost in the conversation about immigration, however, is the reality that the people trying to get into our country are just that — people.

I visited with families on the border years ago during a road trip to the Rio Grande. What I found surprised me. They were mothers, fathers, children, young people, old people, poor people and people with plenty. They were just like everyone else back home. They were not the “others” they are often made out to be.

I camped in a tent in a park on the U.S. side of the border. Families were camping nearby, grilling out, playing soccer and doing the normal stuff that families do. It was like someone had transported Lake Lincoln State Park to the border, except no one spoke English. And there was a helicopter circling overhead that I assume contained Border Patrol agents.

These people were not monsters. They were not all criminals. They were just people. Some were probably good, some were probably bad. Again, just like us.

We spoke zero Spanish. Our road maps were useless. We were clueless about where we were or how to get back home. And we were quickly running out of food and gas money. We were helpless.

But every roadside stand we stopped at to ask for directions gave us free fruit and something to drink. We were strangers in need, and they were more than happy to help.

We were easy targets if someone had wanted to harm us. But we were met with kindness, with friendship and with a desire to help their fellow man.

I can’t help but think of those people when I read about what’s happening on the border. When young children are separated from parents, it’s because we don’t see them as people. We see them as “others.” When we label them as rapists or murderers without knowing anything about them, it’s because we don’t see them as people.

Thankfully, Trump reversed course and his administration is working to reunify families. But it asked a judge for more time Friday, saying that it is taking longer than expected to place children back with their parents.

The judge, who was appointed by President George W. Bush, set the deadline last week, writing that the “situation has reached a crisis level” and that the “chaotic circumstances” were of the government’s own making, according to The Associated Press.

Yes, we need law and order on the border. Yes, we need to ensure that illegal immigration is dealt with according to our rules and regulations. But we also need to remember that these are people. They are just like us. And people deserve better.

Publisher Luke Horton can be reached at luke.horton@dailyleader.com.