Immigration Diversity

When walking down the street somewhere, do you ever pass someone and wonder where they are from?  Do you ever actually stop to ask?  Probably not.  It’s one of those things that we silently wonder but continue on with our day without even thinking about it again.  But this could all be changing soon in the state of Arizona as it has passed a sweeping new legislation (SB 1070) that is designed to help curb the problem of illegal immigrants in the state.  However, the way this bill works could have unforeseen consequences.

Now I know illegal immigration is a major problem in this country, and I’m not saying that we don’t need major immigration reform.  We definitely do.  Do I know how to solve this immigration problem?  Not even close.  But I do know enough to know that this bill will definitely not do it.

The new Arizona law (SB 1070) says that if a person acts suspicious or different, then the authorities have the right to question that person…and if necessary, detain them.  But the law fails to tell us what constitutes as suspicious or different.  So how do we define that?  Do we start to question everyone that looks Hispanic?  What about Asians?  What about anyone with an accent?  Where do we draw that line?  The governor of Arizona has said that she does not want and will not stand for racial profiling.  But how is this law going to work then when it’s basic premise is pretty much set up on just that sort of thing?

Let’s look at it this way for a moment.  I have a cousin that lives in southern California.  She’s an American born to American parents.  And grew up here in the Midwest.  However, she has dark hair and a darker complexion.  She can now be lawfully stopped however many times the authorities want to and “asked” to show proof of residency.  It doesn’t matter if she can successfully show it once.  She could still end up having to do this several times depending on how long she is in the state.

Do they honestly have a right to request an ID just because you look different than everyone else?  I know Arizona is trying to curb their illegal immigrant problem.  But are they just going to be doing this to anyone that looks Hispanic?  There are Asians that are here illegally.  There are Canadians here illegally.  There are people here from the countries of Europe and Africa that are here illegally.  So again…where is this line going to be drawn?  Immigrants from Europe and Canada would tend to blend in with mainstream America when just going on a look… their accents giving them away if talking to them.   And what about Cubans?  Federal immigration law states that they are allowed to stay as soon as they touch American soil because they are coming from an oppressive nation.  Overall, I think we are almost one step away from when Hitler made the Jews where the Star of David on all their clothing so they could be identified.  Is that something we really want to start doing in this nation?  Curbing illegal immigration should not mean that we have to curb our civil rights or who we are as a people.

And let’s look at this part of the country in an historical context?  The entire American southwest (Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California, Nevada, Utah, and Colorado) was all part of the Spanish empire (and later part of Mexico after it gained its independence in 1821).  So there have always been Hispanic people living in this part of the country.  And if some of these families went back far enough, they’d find that their ancestors were living in a part of Mexico that was suddenly given to the US in a treaty (Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo) which ended the Mexican-American war that was oddly enough started by the United States because we wanted that part of the continent.  So now we expect these “new citizens” at that time to conform to the US and give up their old customs.  And in today’s world, we are now going to harass them because they are different from the rest of the “English-driven” country that their ancestors had no part in being citizens of.

It should come as no surprise that this law will be challenged in court, and it will probably go up to the Supreme Court before it’s all said and done.  Critics of the bill argue that it violated the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution…and that will be up for a judge (or the justices) to determine.  But it could also end up violating the 14th Amendment to the Constitution which states, “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States.”  It is my right and privilege as an American citizen to be able to walk down the street in peace and not be questioned by anyone as to my citizenship…even if I look different from everyone else.  Because think about it, we are all different.  So how do we determine “normal” or mainstream” when it comes to who we are?  We are all descendants from immigrants.  And who among us can look back at all of our ancestors and not find one that came into this country illegally.  Even my family lineage isn’t that perfect.  I know of one that jumped ship off the coast of Texas and swam ashore (and I don’t even have Spanish or Mexican lineage).

Yes, real immigration reform is needed, and one that will include the LGBT community, too, as we are left out of current immigration laws (even if they are legally married in the state that they reside in).  But this new law in Arizona is a far cry from anything that is acceptable.  All it’s going to lead to is racial profiling on a massive scale (especially those that are Hispanic) and infringe upon the civil rights of those American citizens that are going to be constantly harassed by the authorities because they look “different.”   It is time to get our own heads out of the sand and start implementing real reform and not just something that looks like it on the surface but is really just giving the authorities “permission” to racially profile people.  Because what do we do if we catch them?  Do we send them home?  They just come back.  Do we put them in jail?  Our jails are over-crowded and then we still would have to pay for them. There are just too many loopholes for this new law to be truly effective the way the lawmakers want it to be.

True reform can be achieved if we keep in mind that the immigrants from a by-gone era are the same as ones today… most are just trying to improve their lives for themselves and their family.  And sure, most do it legally as they all should.  But sometimes, there are certain situations that can quickly change a person’s life and the reasons for relocating.  For our freedoms is why these individuals choose to come here when these major situations arise… because staying “at home” might be suddenly too dangerous and no longer an option.

Let us, as a nation of immigrants from different parts of the world, celebrate our heritage and cherish our cultures…and bring about real immigration reform that benefits all who wish to be a part of our country.  It is our diversity that makes us unique and great.  And before you pass judgment on this Arizona law, maybe you should go research your own family history to see what secrets it possibly holds on your first ancestors to come into this country.  I sincerely hope this nation of ours can get beyond our own biases and embrace our cultural diversity.

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4 Responses to Immigration Diversity

  1. Anna Mars says:

    Nicely said!

  2. Bradly says:

    The other day they were talking about how Stephen Hawking said that we should avoid seeking out other life in the universe because if they are anything like us in terms of behavior and more advanced, it would probably be similar to another Columbus-Native Americans encounter.

    I don’t know what the future holds, but I can only imagine that people (or whatever) will look back us shaking their heads in utter disbelief because we were so ignorant.

  3. James S. says:

    Here’s an op-ed by Desmond Tutu that appeared in the Huffington Post.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/desmond-tutu/arizona—-the-wrong-answ_b_557955.html?alacarte=1

  4. James S. says:

    It should also be said that the Democrats of Congress have drafted an Immigration reform bill that conservative George Will has said could have been written by a Republican… because of the content of the bill. Democrats are currently shopping around for Republican cosponsors. So why are the Democrats having trouble with it when it’s pretty much what the Republicans have been trying to get? Because it was written by the Democrats. Not even the conservative George Will (who made the comment) would even endorse the bill.

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