ST. GEORGE — Central American migrants who have been the target of President Donald Trump’s anti-immigration rhetoric have the support of some unexpected allies.
Cliven Bundy, the Nevada rancher based in Bunkerville whose family was involved in an armed standoff against the federal government in 2014 over unpaid grazing fees, is speaking out against the anti-immigrant sentiment prevailing in far-right circles.
“Trump’s wall never did sit very good with me,” Bundy said in an interview Wednesday with The Guardian.
Bundy is joined by his sons Ryan and Ammon in calling for more compassionate treatment of people from Central and South America seeking asylum in the U.S.
“I really question his doctrine ever since he started it about building a wall,” Cliven Bundy said in reference to Trump. “I don’t like walls. I think we oughta be able to get along with neighbors.”
He said the immigration issue isn’t “that big of a problem” and that the U.S. has an obligation to deal appropriately with its neighbors to the south.
“They can’t build a wall to stop people. … I don’t think it’s going to do any good,” he said.
In a video posted to Facebook Tuesday, Ammon Bundy also addressed the issue, saying he has conducted research examining both sides.
“I have tried to get the truth and not be sucked into a vacuum on the right or a vacuum on the left,” he said in the video.
He called conspiracies surrounding the recent arrival of a migrant caravan from Central America “a bunch of garbage.”
“To group them all up like, frankly, our president has done – you know, I’m trying to speak respectfully – he has basically called them all criminals and said they’re not coming in here,” he said.
“It seems there’s been this group stereotype. But what about the individual? What about those who have come for reasons of need?”
Explaining that he’s not for open borders and people coming and going as they please, Ammon Bundy said each refugee’s situation should be examined individually and then let in on a case-by-case basis.
“They have a right to come and apply to come into this country,” he said. “Whether it’s asylum or whatever purpose.”
“To just say, ‘oh they’re not coming in here and they’re all criminals,’ well, frankly, that’s factually incorrect. And then to say that we’re not helping them is completely opposite of who we are as a Christian nation.”
Drawing on the tenets of their faith as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Bundys say facilitating asylum claims is a moral imperative.
“We are sort of a worldwide church. We do believe that all of the people on this earth are Heavenly Father’s children,” Cliven Bundy said in his interview with The Guardian. “We do believe we’re equal, and we oughta be treated equal and not be divided.”
Beyond morality, Ammon Bundy said there are also practical reasons to facilitate immigration.
“This country is in a labor crisis,” he said. “Our labor workforce is so minimal that every employer will tell you that they cannot find the employees needed to fill the positions in their businesses. This is in every industry.”
Ammon Bundy said his family would be among those willing to take in families and help “get them on their feet.”
“We have thousands of people willing to come in here, and it appears – based on the facts, not the rhetoric – that they’re willing to work.”
In a separate interview with The Guardian, Ryan Bundy said he supports what his brother said in the Facebook video.
“The United States of America has always been known as a melting pot. It’s always been a place for immigration,” Ryan Bundy said. “Except for the Native Americans, we’re all immigrants.
“That doesn’t mean everyone can just rush the border. There’s still a process that needs to take place.”
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