“The bosom of America is open to receive not only the Opulent and respected Stranger, but the oppressed and persecuted of all Nations and Religions; whom we shall welcome to a participation of all our rights and privileges.”

No less than George Washington uttered those words two centuries ago – but do they still apply? Should they still apply?

Then there’s Thomas Jefferson, another great American and president who said, “Born in other countries, yet believing you could be happy in this, our laws acknowledge, as they should do, your right to join us in society, conforming, as I doubt not you will do, to our established rules. That these rules shall be as equal as prudential considerations will admit, will certainly be the aim of our legislatures, general and particular.”

We are a nation with open arms, but also a nation of laws that everyone is expected to follow. If we visit another country, we, too, are expected to follow their laws. Even ones we don’t understand or agree with.

The scenes of crying children separated from their parents last week are heart-wrenching. If those images don’t bother you, well, you have deeper issues.

Many say that the children wouldn’t have been in that terrible position had their parent or parents not entered the country illegally, overstayed their work visas and/or did not “try to do it legally.” And that’s a valid point. You and I can’t go to another country and expect to live there without paying our dues – which could include going to jail or getting tossed out of the country if we don’t follow their rules.

It’s clear our immigrations system is broken. There’s got to be a better way. I’m not smart enough to know what those answers are, but it’s clear neither does Washington.

Illegal immigrants wouldn’t be working in chicken plants if the jobs weren’t available. It’s not an easy or fun job. How many Americans are willing to work where these immigrants are working? Sure, we can talk about paying people more, but will that solve the problem? Some consumers say they’ll pay more if it means the jobs pay more so Americans can get those jobs. But when it comes to putting your money where your mouth is, I’m not so sure that’s the case.

The employers who hire immigrants – legal or not – should be held accountable for their actions. Why aren’t they being carted off to jail, even if it is for a day, to make a strong statement if they knowingly hired undocumented workers?

As a parent, I would do anything to protect my child, to ensure his safety and well-being. Would I trek 1,000 miles or more to another country for the chance to try to find a better life, to escape drought and famine, war and drugs? Even if it means possible separation at some point?

Likely. Because desperate times call for desperate measures.

But this is a complex issue where there are few winners, only losers on both sides, if something isn’t done.

“My children, our love should not be just words and talk; it must be true love, which shows itself in action.” (1 John 3:18).

And so we should act.

» DENNIS SEID is the Business Editor at the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal in Tupelo.