Sunday, June 17, 2012

Sooner or Later, This Needs Fixing

I knew when I heard that President Obama had announced a new policy for immigration what I would see coming from his critics.  And of course, the bile and bigotry has flowed through my Facebook stream and Twitter as predicted.  If you're one of those posting that crap, you're certainly free to do so, but I urge you to reconsider your position.  For one thing, I think the Slacktivist hit the nail on the head in calling out the hypocrisy of Americans who revile "rule-breaking immigrants" while celebrating themselves as motivate go-getters - he has suggested a better name for both groups on his blog.

But more immediately, I think we need to recognize that the President is doing the right thing for the sub-group of children of immigrants who were moved here before they were able to make the decision whether to do so - either legally or not - for themselves.  My cousin is married to one of these "illegal kids." He found out he was here illegally when he was 18, and went to marry my cousin; he had been here for 15 years and did not know he wasn't supposed to be here - though he felt pretty stupid when he looked back and saw all of the obvious clues.

Unfortunately for him (and for my cousin) the whole myth of the "anchor baby" isn't true; and to answer those who ask "why don't you just go through proper channels like everyone else," the trouble is that there are no "proper channels" for someone like him. The "proper channel" would have been to abandon his new wife and infant for the 7 to 10 years that it would take for him to leave the States and re-apply for admission. He had nowhere to go in Mexico - his Spanish was okay, but he didn't know anyone there, and would have had no where to live, no job, no family, no way to support himself or his wife and kid, etc. 

So he was stuck between two lousy choices, and he made the one I would have made: stay with the wife and kids, support my family, stay out of trouble, and hope that since this is such a "hot issue" the U.S. Congress would come up with a plan. George W. Bush, and now Barack Obama, sounded like they had the right idea, but just lacked the Constitutional power to do anything about it; and the Congress has lacked the cojones to act in the face of widespread racism.

By the way, this family I'm describing is largely Southern Baptist (myself being an exception) and tends to vote Republican. My cousin's first pregnancy was scandalous, but "the right thing to do" was for the boy to marry the girl and support her, and they stepped up to help as much as they could. One thing they could not do: they couldn't help change a "legal status" that the law didn't recognize.

Oh, but what about the law these people were and are breaking? I don't want you to think I am ignoring the law... but did you know it is only a misdemeanor? Speeding is more dangerous, and littering does more damage. Would you insist that everyone stop driving until we hold all of the speeders accountable for their crime?

Do you want to hold people accountable for the identity theft, tax evasion, and fraudulent claim of benefits? Great - let's do that! But you also need to make it so that a kid who turns 18 and finds out they aren't actually a citizen of the only home they've ever known can pay the fine for his misdemeanor, start the naturalization process - and still stay to support his American family. Take into account the fact that a minor isn't responsible for the identity theft his parents committed; and focus the harshest punishments on the drug runners, human smugglers, and money launderers (who currently tend to go free precisely because we fail to make a legal distinction between them and the trespassers).  My cousin's husband finally found a way to return to Mexico and enter the country legally after only 6 months; but he had to wait until the kids were old enough and the family was established enough to take that leap.

And please, please stop telling me that your position on this isn't racist. I see the things you're posting and saying - the stereotypes of the macho thugs, illiterate migrants, and other tropes you trot out to show how different these people are. It's like you forgot how your Irish and Eastern European ancestors were treated by the white protestants in their day.

You don't have to like Obama or support Democrats to get this problem fixed, but you should certainly reconsider your virulent anti-immigrant stance, and tell your representatives to come up with a better plan. Because we are better than the way we have been behaving for far too long.

1 comment:

Tad said...

I anticipate this reaction from some (it already came up on Facebook): "You seem to assume that anyone disagreeing with the President is a bigot."

My response to that:

First, it's important that everyone understands the distinction between what you identify as my "assumptions" and what I'm actually saying. I'm not assuming that anyone who disagrees with the President's action is a bigot. However, I did anticipate a lot of bigoted commentary from people who use any such occasion to flaunt their bigotry - and they delivered. They also typically act offended when you call them on it. I call that "Playing Cute with Racism," and I wrote about it a couple of months ago:

I say if you're a racist, and you're basing your position on that racism, you should own up to it. It's not like you're fooling anyone, and at least then it is clear. If you think you're NOT a racist, but you're posting inflammatory, racially charged crap about how "they" are trying to take over your country and drive "us" out... I have to ask you to reconsider what you think your stance is.

If you're really just a law-and-order type who is only upset because people are "getting away with" breaking the law, then you should probably take a hard look at what the law really says, how messed up it is, and what it really does to people. Because this notion of "amnesty" is so toxic, we haven't been able to get Congress to come up with any real solutions - ones that would help my cousin's family and people like them. Instead, what we've gotten is a lot of racially charged laws that erode everyone's 4th amendment protections and push us further toward being a police state.

And I'm saying we won't fix that until we, as a population, can dial back on the bigotry - which largely won't happen if we pretend it's not there.