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Blocking war refugees the wrong move

Saturday kicked off Lunar New Year celebrations across Asia.

Here in Port Arthur, hundreds joined in the celebration of the Vietnamese New Year, known as Tet Nguyên Đán.

While this is an ancient Vietnamese holiday, it’s more recent in Texas.

The first wave of Vietnamese immigrants came to Jefferson County after the fall of Saigon, on the heels of a Communist takeover in 1976. That first wave of Vietnamese refugees came to America seeking a better life, a life where they could be free of danger to live, work and worship as they wanted.

Through the decades, those Vietnamese refugees have become part of our community and together we have grown stronger. Our Vietnamese neighbors have added grocery stores, restaurants, auto mechanic shops and more. We are neighbors, we go to school together and we strive to improve Port Arthur, our home.

Saturday was, here in Port Arthur, a chance to celebrate the New Year but also a chance to celebrate our community and our neighbors.

But Saturday was very different for another group of refugees as President Donald Trump on Friday sealed our borders to war refugees—some of whom were on flights already en route to our shores.

The New York Times reported one Houston family spent Saturday morning without a father and husband, as he was detained in a New York airport without access to a lawyer. Scores more will be in legal limbo, despite being vetted and approved for arrival. Scores of people who want to live free of fear and danger to live, work and worship as they please may never get that promised opportunity because of this executive action.

We support background checks and vetting each refugee and we support caution and vigilance. We support legal immigration.

However, we cannot support denying entry to a group of people who had been approved for legal immigration simply because they are a certain religion and because they’re from a country torn apart by war.

We cannot support the president’s executive action because it is wrong.

Our very community is a reflection of what can happen when we give a chance to people who are fleeing war, who do not look like us and who hold beliefs different than ours. We love our community and the people in it and we believe war refugees today deserve the same opportunities as war refugees 40 years ago.