Guest Opinions

Former Idaho chief justice: My people came from ‘s---hole countries.’ How about yours?

Former Idaho Chief Justice and Vietnam veteran Jim Jones advocates for refugees

Retired Idaho Supreme Court Chief Justice Jim Jones has dedicated his retirement to helping refugees in Idaho with legal advice and by recruiting volunteer lawyers. He served as an artillery officer during the Vietnam War and lived among refugees
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Retired Idaho Supreme Court Chief Justice Jim Jones has dedicated his retirement to helping refugees in Idaho with legal advice and by recruiting volunteer lawyers. He served as an artillery officer during the Vietnam War and lived among refugees

The president recently posed the question of why people from, shall we politely say, crapper countries should keep being allowed into the U.S.

Before answering, I should disclose that my ancestors were all from crapper countries — Germany, Scotland, Wales and France. When proper citizens of Rome were lowering their bottoms onto indoor toilet seats, my ancestors were using the woods to do their business. I suspect they just squatted and pooed without the benefit of a hole. Julius Caesar considered my ancestors to be barbarians who were so ignorant, they deserved to be slaughtered or enslaved. They certainly could not become citizens of Rome, at least until several hundred years later when they took over the place.

Apparently, the president’s query related to people from Africa and Haiti, as opposed to blond and blue-eyed Scandinavians. The short answer to his question is that people from crapper nations have proved to be good residents and citizens of this country.

On Jan. 10, the Statesman featured an insightful guest opinion on how the environment is enhanced by smart building codes. It was written by a bright young lady whose parents fled here from the Congo to escape horrible violence. They just wanted what we all want: a safe place to live and raise their family. That young lady will continue to be a caring, contributing person in the Idaho community.

Last year, I met a young woman from Afghanistan whose family spent years as refugees in Pakistan and Russia to escape a war that we started in her country. She now has an engineering degree from Boise State University and a good job at a fast-growing tech company in Boise. She is and will continue to be a credit to this state.

After the U.S., with some justification, initiated the Afghan war, we veered off into an unnecessary war in Iraq, creating a new flood of refugees. Many of the people who sought refuge in this country as a result are doctors, engineers, IT experts and the like. Some are still awaiting licenses to practice their professions, but working hard at other jobs to support their families in the meantime. It is shameful that about 50,000 Iraqis who risked their necks to help American forces, and are still in danger for having done so, still await entry into the U.S. I bet they wish they had known we would not stand behind them before they agreed to help us.

I am currently working with a young woman who was born in England to Nigerian parents, raised in Nigeria before returning to England, got several advanced degrees, including one in law, and then came to the U.S. We are putting together a program to help refugees and other immigrants adjust to the American legal system. She is dedicated to helping the wider community and works hard to make our state a better place for everyone.

The people in the immigrant community are like those who have come from other nations in the past — to escape famine like the Irish, to escape religious persecution like the Pilgrims, or simply to find a better way of life like my wife’s grandmother from Slovenia. The first lady also might have come to America from Slovenia in search of a better life.

We are better than belittling people who come from war-torn and poverty-plagued countries. When those people take root in this land of opportunity, they start businesses at double the rate of home-grown Americans and they contribute their fair share and more to the economy of our state and country. They have much in common with those of us whose ancestors came to this nation of immigrants from “s---hole” countries.

Jim Jones is the retired chief justice of the Idaho Supreme Court.

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