Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Our House Divided

So…what’s the outcome from the past several day’s marching by illegal immigrants seeking validation of their status in this country? It’s a sticky wicket, and anyone underestimating the economic and political fallout from this issue will be sorely disappointed.

Fact: The criminalization of undocumented foreigners is an oxymoron. If they’re here illegally, they’re already criminals. Enforce the law.

Fact: People seeking a better life are going to find their way to America. That’s been the appeal of this country for the past 230-years, and it’s not a franchise idea exclusively for Hispanics. Check out the demographics of The Galleria Mall in Houston or Dallas on any given weekend and watch who’s flashing plastic and cash: that’s not just a white bread shopping mall.

Those two points being stated, there’s also a right way and a wrong way to get into any country. You wanna be legit, do it legitimately.

How to get that done is the trick.
For most poor immigrants, hiring the legal assistance to gain legitimate citizenship is prohibitively expensive. The issue is a potential windfall for lawmakers because there are 11.5 million to 12 million illegal immigrants living in the United States, according to an estimate by the Pew Hispanic Center. When you look at those numbers through the lens of potential voters, the issue takes on new meaning.

Although there are 40 million Hispanics in the United States, only 60% of eligible citizens are registered voters. Historically, turnout at the polls has been lower than among whites and blacks.

That could be changing in light of the events of the past several days. For once, Sen. Ted Kennedy and I agree: Kennedy over the weekend compared the marches in Washington D.C. to the Civil Rights marches of the 60’s in which Dr Martin Luther King Jr. called on the nation to let freedom ring.

America’s house is divided for now, but smart money is betting on a revision of current immigration law to reflect the realities of our time.

Is amnesty for undocumented workers fair?
Is non-enforcement of current law fair?
What is the price immigrants must pay for their citizenship here?

A starting place might be to eschew their ties to their home country as they pledge allegiance to their new one. That’s not to say cultural influences should be left at the border—far from it, because it is the confluence of cultures blending that has been an integral part of America’s greatness and strength.

But flying Mexican flags on school flag poles and threatening to boycott American businesses is no way to gain public sentiment for this cause. The more radical proponents of reform have called for “A Day Without Latinos” on May 1. I would go along with that--so long as each person participating behaves as the person they would like to be—American—and makes May 1 an even more productive, positive day.

The price for becoming American should be that you willingly take on the mantle of being American, while willingly shedding the robe of a foreign national—or in the case of Mexicans, the serape of citizenship from that country. You can’t have it both ways.

Calling for a day without Mexicans is delf-defeating.
In fact, hyphenating American citizenship with any former foreign affiliation reeks of hypocrisy. As a native-born American with English, Irish, and Germanic roots, I resent hearing about African-Americans, Mexican-Americans, Asian-Americans, etc, etc, etc, yada yada yada.

We are Americans, period.
Drop the hyphen, drop the pretense, and just be American.

Clearly, something is broken, and the only correct choice is to fix flawed legislation already in place that is failing to address immigrant flows, failing to provide border security, and failing to recognize the fact that a human tide will continuously seek America’s shores in search of a better life.

The irony is that as we correctly adapt and adjust our thinking and our rules, our lives will be enriched as we enrich the lives of those who seek to live among us as one of us.

By the way, Citizens—today is runoff election day in several key county races around the state. Why not exercise your citizenship and participate?

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