On the U.S. Senate floor nearly three years ago, Sen. Chuck Grassley paid tribute to the late Gov. Robert Ray, saying the “lasting measure of his governorship is defined by his moral leadership after the fall of Saigon in 1975. “
Ray, he said, “put his political life on the line to open Iowa’s homes and hearts to rescue (the “boat people”) from suffering and death. In doing so, he saved the lives of thousands of people, including generations of new Iowans yet to be born.”
Many of those refugees from war-torn Southeast Asia settled in Sioux City, assisted by a number of caring individuals and organizations in the community.
Sioux City and Iowa, as a whole, benefited from Ray’s giving nature. In addition to gaining productive citizens to work in the state’s agricultural industries, Iowa earned a reputation as a caring, compassionate state.
Thursday, Gov. Kim Reynolds demonstrated those Ray years are a distant memory, saying she had rejected a federal request to accept into the state unaccompanied migrant children crossing the Mexico-U.S. border. The need to find homes for them "is the president’s problem,” the Republican governor said.
Why is the state, which is a melting pot of immigrants, now unwilling to even consider a place for children who have been abandoned at our country’s border? Shouldn’t the right to life extend to them, too?
In a 1979 congressional hearing, Ray said it was essential for the government to get input from the states regarding refugee resettlement. “We…are responsible for educating, employing and caring for them,” he said. President Ford asked Ray and other governors if they could help with the resettlement. Ray stepped up and focused on the Tai Dam people. “These people have become productive, contributing members of our society, paying taxes and earning their own way,” Ray said.
Citing a documentary that showed more work that needed to be done, Ray said he wrote to President Carter and said the state was willing to resettle another 1,500 refugees. “I saw that we really only had two choices: We could either turn our backs as countless others suffered and died or we could extend a hand to help and, in doing so, prevent tragic loss of innocent lives.”
We could either turn our backs or extend a hand to help.
Those are powerful words – ones that need to be remembered now when politicians are eager to place blame and responsibility on their opponents.
Instead of listening to the loudest voices in our country, Reynolds needs to pay attention to the most compassionate and reconsider this short-sighted decision.
According to the Adoption Network, there are between one and two million couples waiting to adopt. Approximately 135,000 children are adopted in the United States each year. That says demand is far greater than supply. And there’s a solution just waiting to be considered.
Ray’s footsteps are ones worth following.