TRAVERSE CITY — Amy Spitzley knows something about immigration, having married a man from England.

Spitzley and her spouse met in the 1990s when they were both teaching at a camp in Massachusetts, she said. Things have changed considerably since her husband went through the immigration system then, she said. He had a lot of requirements to meet, and she imagines it’s even stricter after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

“I think that’s why I have a lot of sympathy for people no matter how they got in here,” she said. “It’s not a very fun system.”

That sympathy extends to undocumented immigrants, said Spitzley, a Traverse City resident who works a downtown retail job. She gets those who believe immigrants should come here legally, but figures undocumented immigrants are doing what they must do to survive. And she doesn’t think she can hold something a person does for their survival against them, she said.

Nor does Spitzley think the offspring of immigrants should be punished if their parents brought them to the U.S. without authorization, she said. She gets how letting them off the hook could be frustrating for people who got here legally, though.

Refugees should be allowed to come to the U.S., Spitzley said. The U.S. isn’t the only country dealing with the issue, and no one wants to be a refugee, she said.

Spitzley thinks the money to build a wall on the southern U.S. border could be better spent. But she acknowledged she doesn’t live by the border and believes the situation is different for people who do.

Helen Schultheiss, a Traverse City resident and retired real estate broker, said she thinks a wall is a good idea, and the only way to get control of the situation. She thinks people trying to come into the U.S. from Mexico need to wait to come in legally.

“It’s hard to say what to do with people who are already there and waiting in line,” she said. “But I don’t know how much our country can handle a big bunch coming in at once.”

That’s not to say the U.S. is full — Schultheiss said it’s a big country with lots of room.

Children of undocumented immigrants should be allowed to stay, Schultheiss said. It’s not their fault they came here illegally, and many know nothing about the country from which they came.

Whether their parents should be able to stay is a harder question, Schultheiss said. She thinks yes, so long as they haven’t broken any laws and have been working hard. The time to deport them was years ago when they first got to the country, she said. If they weren’t caught, that’s on the U.S., she said.

Those who want to become U.S. citizens shouldn’t be on public assistance, Schultheiss said. Her father came to the U.S. from Ukraine and never relied on anyone else for help.

Schultheiss also welcomed refugees to the U.S. It wouldn’t hurt to take in some of them, and they have to settle someplace, so why not here? she asked.

“Traverse City is a welcoming community, I think.”


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