Dear Editor: The letters to the editor section of a local paper is always interesting to read for what it reveals about the people who live within the range of the paper’s readership. Among the Downey Patriot’s past few editions, you could read expressions of concern about the trouble with illegal fireworks; downtown cleanup and security; the deterioration of Furman Park; a tribute to Louis Zamperini and a complaint about free publicity for the Stay Gallery.

One unfortunate clutch of letters has revealed a particular strain of ignorant filth that tends to crop up regularly among some Downey editorial contributors, in this instance over the issue of the 57,000 (actually there are more) undocumented children, mainly from Central America, who have been pouring over the Southwestern border of the U.S. since late last year.

In our overheated era of talk radio and cable TV news, there’s hardly an issue that isn’t politicized the moment it joins the mad taffy-pull of McLaughlin Group-style debate. And it’s true of this one, which has hit the U.S border hard. By any measure, the mass influx has raised so much commentary and concern that it’s become one of the major domestic issues that goes to the heart of what America is about.

When it’s couched as an immigration concern, it slips into the old finger-pointing arguments about national security and comprehensive reform. For decades, congress and the executive branch haven’t been able to come up with a just, workable solution, which includes Ronald Reagan’s amnesty program and Bill Clinton’s NAFTA bill. Illegals still slip across in droves; the border fence is never completed, or it doesn’t work; drug cartels ship their stuff north with murderous impunity; well-intended immigration advocates don’t seem to understand that a sovereign nation can’t achieve coherence without defining borders; educational, medical and social services, already underfunded, can’t handle the influx. Communities are stressed and divided. For City On the Hill America-firsters, immigration represents serious trouble in paradise.

But when it’s couched as a humanitarian and refugee crisis, which this is, we’re talking about something else. Most of these kids are sent north by desperate and terrified parents, or anxious to reunite with parents already here – Congress’ Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2008 and other crackdowns have made it difficult for cross-border families to reconnect.

On July 20, the Boston Globe ran the story of a 9-year-old girl who made it north to her parents, from a gang-run Honduran region with a kill-on sight 6 p.m. curfew (Slate reports that Honduras has the largest murder rate in the world). Many MS-13 thugs have re-established Salvadoran roots after being deported out of L.A. Guatemala’s poverty rate is shocking even by regional standards.

This issue has alarmed a lot of the country. Some states, like Connecticut, Arizona and Washington State, have refused to take in the arrivals while they’re being processed. Michigan anti-immigrant protesters have showed up carrying guns. On the other hand, municipalities in New York, Massachusetts, Vermont and Northern California have stepped up to try and take the pressure off the southwest states, including ours.

The issue is complex. Differing points of view have their justification, including the cost of dealing with so many individual cases and the unintended consequence of requiring lawyers to represent each one. But the process will sort itself out. Some refugees will be deported, some will be given asylum, some will reunite with their families.

Reading the Patriot letters has been a depressing experience for me. I’ll scratch Elsa Van Leuven’s nasty screed – her semi-deranged broadsides have been aimed in the same direction for so long that she’s lost all credibility. But the others, with their ignorant, inhumane dismissiveness? Don’t they know that the history of this country has been built on the backs of immigrants?  Does the Statue of Liberty, containing Emma Lazarus’ inscription, “Give me your tired, your poor,  your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” represent anything more than a distant tourist icon?

If America is a nation under God, didn’t Christ say, “Suffer the little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me…” and “As you do it to the least of mine, you do it to me”?

I happen to believe in the separation of church and state, so I’ll go with the more secular observation of Billy Wilder, the Austrian Jew who in 1934 faced two choices, the gas chamber in Dachau or life in the U.S. He slipped in, legally, through Mexicali and became one of our greatest film directors. One of the things he said of America in his 1988 acceptance speech for the Irving Thalberg Award was, “You are without doubt the most generous people in the world.”

I’m sure there are a majority of people throughout the country, and in Downey, who, given the chance, would live up to that accolade. It would be nice to hear from some of them.

Lawrence Christon Downey


Dear Editor:

A quick observation on last week’s Patriot Editorial page regarding immigration.

The opinions were given by people with last names of Van Leuven, Cvetko, Hofstetter and Arena.

The irony made my morning.

Osvaldo Gomez Downey


Dear Editor:

Could it be something in the water that explains the rash of grumpy letters in last week’s Patriot?

Elsa van Leuven is grumpy as usual, this time about immigration. Joe Cvetko is grumpy about that and President Obama. George Hofstetter and Mary Arena are grumpy at Latinos who got elected to Congress (how dare they!). Lee Woodfin is grumpy that people enjoy poetry he doesn’t understand and that they like Stay Gallery. Joyce Rosebrock and all the others are grumpy that the Patriot publishes opinions they disagree with. And these people claim to defend America!

George Hofstetter even says “America is in the toilet”! How sad!

America remains the freest country in the world with boundless economic opportunities. These people seem to have forgotten that American freedom is founded on tolerance for other opinions, even those you deeply disagree with. They don’t understand that a great country, a great state, a great city, a great culture are not created by grumpy naysayers who indulge in fact-free tirades against their fellow citizens.

Harold Hougland’s praise for Louis Zamperini, a truly great American who even forgave the Japanese soldier who tortured him as a prisoner of war, was a refreshing contrast.

America is great because so many Americans are courageous, tough, optimistic, respectful of others, welcoming, and generous. Some of them even like poetry!

Don Marshall Downey


Dear Editor:

This letter is in response to the recent letters regarding the influx of refugees coming from South America.

I am writing as  a non-partisan person but as such, I am so disheartened by the rhetoric from our citizens of Downey, complaining about the Patriot because they feel it has favored one political party over the other. How childish. In the past, this paper has published both political parties’ views.

After reading the most recent rants, I now understand why Congress will never get anything done. There is too much name calling, finger pointing, and close minded individuals. In addition, no one is listening to the other viewpoints because they believe their side is right all the time.

One provision of the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2008 passed by Congress and signed by President George W. Bush allows the U.S. Health and Human Services Department to provide and care for unaccompanied minors while awaiting deportation. This is the present law, folks.

Write to your respected political parties and get Congress to change this provision, and remember we are a great nation of immigrants.

Joanne Gallo Downey



Published: July 24, 2014 - Volume 13 - Issue 15