The Political Game and Immigration: It is about people!
May 16, 2011 by M. Daniel Carroll R. | 2 Comments
This last week, President Obama spoke in El Paso, Texas about immigration reform. His words presented nothing new. Under his administration there has been stricter border enforcement and a doubling of the number of Border Patrol agents. There have been systems put in place to make it more difficult for employers to hire undocumented workers by requiring that they check social security numbers against national databases; violators will be fined. There have been more deportations in the first two years of this administration than ever before. The path to legality is about paying fines and back taxes, passing English exams (has the president ever visited Chinatown in Chicago, San Francisco, or Boston?!), and being sent to the back of fictitious lines…
The emphasis is almost entirely on enforcement. What is contradictory is that at the same time, there is talk about providing a path to legality for the undocumented. How will these millions of people keep or get jobs to feed their families and survive, with all that is being done to not allow them to work? The president can talk about the wonderful work ethic of immigrants and how the undocumented are a key part of the agricultural industry, etc., even as his plans continue to tighten the noose. There must be legal changes, and the border needs to function better—even immigration activists understand that—but the tone from the White House appears less than welcoming.
This reminds me of a line from a previous election: “It is about the economy, stupid!” We can rephrase that line these days as: “It is about people!” Lost in the political rhetoric that is already gearing up for the next cycle of elections in 2012 is that immigration reform ultimately is about people: young singles, working families, spouses sending home remittances, and DREAM Act kids. It is about the people I go to church with here in Aurora, Colorado—the young couples, the small children squirming during the service, the praise band, the older ones, some who have been here for more than a decade; it is about their homes, cars, the daily schedules of life, family and friends. It is about those who are forced to live in the shadows under the present unworkable system. It is about persons made in the image of God, deserving of mercy, especially by those who claim Christian faith—those who themselves have been forgiven their law-breaking and rebellious ways by a gracious God.
As 2012 approaches, one can easily get the impression that one political party once again will try to pander to the Latino electorate, even as it lacks the political will and honesty to act on its pre-election promises. The other party will angrily criminalize and stereotype the immigrant population and feed on the nativist emotions of the majority culture. For both sides, immigration reform is about securing votes and winning elections. Perhaps this is an overly cynical view...
Caught in the crossfire are the immigrants themselves. They will continue to try to live as normal life as possible under the circumstances, work, and take their kids to school, and go to churches around the country in the millions every Sunday. What is needed are fewer sound bites with a sprinkling of stories to bolster a particular side of the debate. Immigration reform is about people.