Open up your heart

As the descendant of immigrants and friend of numerous refugees, I would like to take issue with Dr. Ray Wolbrecht’s column on immigration.

He states that “some” immigrants learn English, find work and abide by our laws, but others come to “gain wealth in illegal ways.” He adds there are “no statistics” on how many are in the latter category.


Two recent studies showed that immigrants commit crimes at a lower rate than U.S. citizens. One of these was published by the libertarian Cato Institute, which is about as far from being a left-wing organization as Texas is from being a blue state.

Also from the Cato Institute (and other sources): The “vast majority” of immigrants learn English.

My husband and I are lucky to live in a city rich with immigrants. Kurdish refugees have opened bakeries, restaurants and other businesses. Workers from Mexico are building our new office buildings and hotels. Scientists from many countries are doing critical research at Vanderbilt Medical School. The kids from Latin America, the Middle East, Africa and Eastern Europe have brought a whole new level of play to school soccer programs.

I have yet to meet an immigrant who, as Dr. Wolbrecht says, has “no moral training in self control” or thinks of the U.S. as ‘The Great Satan.’” Quite the opposite. The Iraqi widow who lives nearby with her elderly mother and 10-year-old son is grateful to be here. My friends who fled war-torn Liberia and lived 13 years in a refugee camp know that by immigrating here they opened up better opportunities for their kids.

Sure, there are immigrants who break the law. But that is the exception. Far more immigrants open businesses, pay taxes, create jobs for American workers, and increase demand for consumer goods.

The morning after the presidential election, our 9-year-old godchild, whose parents are from Liberia and Sudan, was in tears, waking up her mother at 5 a.m. to say they would have to move back to Africa. She had heard all of the anti-immigrant rhetoric and taken it to heart.

Never mind that she herself was born in the United States or that her parents have excelled in their jobs at a downtown hotel and helped other immigrants along the way. She was hearing the kind of sentiment expressed in Dr. Wolbrecht’s letter.

I challenge Dr. Wolbrecht to open his heart and mind to immigrants. Like us, he may realize how very lucky we are to experience their many gifts in this country.

Sheri Sellmeyer

 (Editor’s Note: Sheri Sellmeyer is a former Kyle resident, a shareholder in this newspaper and a former editor. She now lives with her husband, Barry Kolar, in Nashville, Tn., where she still follows Hays County news.)

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