When I was growing up, aliens were creatures from outer space. Today, they’re people from countries like Mexico, Guatemala, Syria or Afghanistan.

These folks are not monsters from another world. They’re humans just like you and me who deserve respect and who share our planet Earth with us. And we’re nuts if we think otherwise.

There are those among us who want these good people to live in fear and poverty, while we live in peace and prosperity. 

Our hearts and minds, though, should be focused on helping these refugees and those already with us struggling to get by each day.

Immigrants want to come to America. This is good. They seek a better life for themselves and their children. They are willing to take on any kind of job — like cleaning out animal barns — to stay here and work toward citizenship.

Think for a moment: Would you do that? 

These dreamers, as they’re known, deserve our open arms and our help. They do the jobs that most U.S. citizens, like you and me, refuse to do.

There’s no need to make America great again. We need to make America open-minded again. Immigrants have helped make America the great nation it is today, and they will continue to help.

The leaders of most third-world countries are more interested in enriching themselves than they are in feeding their hungry or tending to their sick. Dictators want all the money they can grab.

That’s a major reason immigrants want to come here. 

We shouldn’t blame or shame them for coming to our gates to enter the U.S. If I were one of them, I’d be in line, too. 

As good Americans, we tell ourselves frequently that we’re not biased, that we do care about these people. But if we are honest with ourselves, we know deep down we don’t.

Sadly, many of us older folks were born into this kind of thinking and grew up with it.

I’ll admit I was reared in a world of bias against black people, even though I grew up just as economically disadvantaged as they were.

My people were known as poor white trash. They worked manual labor jobs. I did, too, until I worked my way through college and to a better life.

My family — every one of them — loved America. My granddad, my dad and my brother all served in the U.S. Navy during times of war. To them, it was payback time. 

Many immigrants serve in our armed forces today as a path to American citizenship.

Back in the early days, my two brothers and I were watched over by a black nanny while our mom and dad labored in a cotton mill and a cookie factory. 

Our caretaker was young and pretty, and she treated us with respect. Not very often, but every now and then, she reported the bad things we did to our parents. 

Guess what followed? A scolding and a whipping for not minding her. My parents put their trust and respect in that sweet woman and told us to obey her.

One of the most heartbreaking memories from my youth is of an old black man rummaging through our trash can for food while talking and joking with us as we sat on the front porch. 

I’m certain that shameful memory will be with me until I die. 

Today, I am very proud of all the black families whose forebears lifted them from the awful sting of poverty. 

I have nothing but goodwill for all who come to our borders seeking entry into America. They are coming for a leg up, an opportunity to better their lives and the lives of their children. Our duty is to accept and help them.

Let me add this: I’m not dumb. I know of the immigrant drug smugglers The Donald talks about daily. But they number only a few when we consider all the decent families who seek entry into our country.

There’s always a few bad apples in the barrel. But there’s another side to it, which means all the rest are good.

There will always be bad folks in line, no matter how hard we try to pick them out. They’ll find a way to get in. This we continue.

But closing our borders and not allowing immigrants of all nationalities to enter our country is not the right moral choice for our nation, which was made durable and great by past immigrants.

Times have changed, for sure, but not for those still yearning to be free. We need to keep our lamp lit beside the golden door. 

Each day, our duty should be to find ways to break free of bias and discrimination. Our sign should read: “America is open for business. All customers are welcome, regardless of race or color.” 

Ralph Morris is a retired newspaperman who lives near Auburn. His email address is r.morris@ctvea.net.

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