Musings on Immigration

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Have We Really Come To This?

The headline in a report on KGUN9 (a Tucson, Arizona TV station) reads:

Group of illegal immigrants shot at, 1 wounded near Rio Rico (AZ)

Apparently a group of undocumented immigrants were shot at while walking in the desert away from the border on Friday. The reports indicate that two men wearing camouflage used high-powered rifles to shoot at them. One of the five immigrants was wounded in the attack and was treated by local authorities in the hospital. This same group also told authorities that they had passed two bodies nearby during their trek.

Another Headline in the Arizona Republic Reads:

Phoenix murder of Latino man called hate crime

The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office has alleged that the May 6 fatal shooting of a Mexican-American man in south Phoenix by a neighbor shouting racial epithets was a hate crime. The allegation was filed June 9 as one of six aggravating factors that the office raised in the case of Gary Thomas Kelley. Aggravating factors allow judges to enhance prison sentences in the event of a conviction. Kelley, 50, is charged with second-degree murder in the killing of Juan Varela, 44. He also is accused of menacing Varela’s brother Antonio with a gun. According to initial police reports, Kelley shouted, “Hurry up and go back to Mexico or you’re gonna die.” Varela, in fact, was a third-generation, native-born U.S. citizen.

George Santayana, a notable philosopher, coined the phrase, “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” We have seen this type of hatred before, all starting with a belief that the majority was just trying to get people to “obey the law.” Xenophobia has a long history in America. Isn’t it time we got over our fear of the foreign, and embrace what our own experiment in democracy has shown: That immigration makes us stronger!

Use as a simple example, the U.S. National Soccer Team, making a run for advancing into the next round of the world cup. The names on this team reflect a vibrant country of immigrants and acceptance of diversity: Howard, Guzan, Spector, Hahnemann, Bocanegra, Onyewu, Cherundolo, Bornstein. This is not a team of ”native” Americans, but team of immigrants. Stronger becuase of their diverse backgrounds, not weaker.

Yet, we struggle with a national debate on immigration, fueled in some part by fear, some part by racism, and some part by economics. But, can you answer me this question: Why do State Legislators keep spending so much time on the immigration issues, when they have other more important issues to deal with? Do state legislators really believe that if every immigrant left their state, that every other issue would disappear? Everyone would have jobs, there would be adequate healthcare for all, there would be no shortfall in state revenues, and crime would be eliminated? Do they really believe this? Or are these demagogic legislators really just trying to stir up hatred, distrust and their supports for election purposes?

We all can understand the economic argument, although the facts bear out that deporting 12 million people is not only economically non-viable, but would be a 1.7 TRILLION dollar hit to our economy. To some extent, we can understand the fear of the new, the fear of the stranger. Such fear has been around for as long as we have been a nation. That we will have to get over, and I believe that cooler heads will prevail.

What we cannot understand is the race based legislation that is being passed in places like Arizona. You can argue that SB 1070 is not race based. BUT, the intent of the legislation is clear–chase Hispanics from Arizona. Many other states around the US are going to try to adopt this type of legislation. But, like legislation from prior years which targeted African Americans, and Asian Americans, and even German Americans, this legislation will be laid in the dust bin of history. I just pray it happens before more people are killed, before more people take the hidden race baiting of laws like SB 1070, to the action stage. We do not need more deaths, we need more leadership. Leadership that will solve this crisis and create an immigration solution that works FOR America, not against it.

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