Thursday, May 27, 2010

I'm here . . . you can lock the gate now.

We're hearing a lot about immigration these days here is the U.S.  The state of  Arizona recently passed a law making the failure to carry immigration documents a crime and giving law enforcement officials broad power to detain anyone suspected of being in the country illegally (translation: anyone who looks like a Mexican).  Emotionally charged stories depicting evidence of  illegal border crossings are jamming our e-mail in-boxes and the writers are demanding that our borders be secured before we are overrun by undesirable immigrants. Immigration is a complex issue and I recognize that I have limited knowledge about many facets of the problems associated with it. I understand the need to control the borders and that legitimate and serious problems can result from failing to secure and regulate immigration. 

All of this got me to thinking.  It's not the Native Americans that are raising such a fuss about immigration these days, it's the lily-white people who look just like me that are.  I was born in this country and therefore am a citizen of the U.S. by birth but I'm not of Native American descent. My ancestors immigrated here several generations back from Europe and, to the best of my knowledge, I have no Native American blood in my heritage.  Why is it that white people like me, all of whom are ancestors of immigrants themselves, are the ones raising such a stink about other immigrants?  Is it a, "I'm here . . . you can lock the gate now" mentality?

I wonder if this cartoon is a pretty good depiction of what some Native Americans are thinking right now?

Of course, not all immigrants are illegal immigrants.  I could be wrong but I assume that the vast majority of immigrants came to live here legally.  I can't imagine anyone denying that immigrants and their descendants have contributed significantly to virtually every aspect of this country's success.  Immigrants and their descendants are largely responsible for the prosperity of this country and all of us have benefited from that prosperity.  Do we somehow fear that our prosperity is jeopardized by these new immigrants, legal or illegal?  And could this mean that our fear is really rooted in racism? After all, I don't hear anybody complaining about those lazy Canadians sneaking across the border nor do I hear anyone demanding that we "build the damn fence" along our border with Canada. 

I have no beef with people who think we need to enforce immigration laws.  I struggle, however, with the arrogance that wants to blame Hispanic immigrants for every imaginable problem in this country.  Surely, they are not to blame for all of our crime problems and economic struggles.  Surely, they are not the only reason that our health care system is overburdened or public schools are overcrowded. Some people even want to blame illegal immigrants for the pollution in our lakes and rivers.  Maybe we need to focus our attention on fixing problems rather than fixing blame.  And maybe we should be grateful that the Native Americans, the people that were here long before your ancestors or mine arrived on this soil, are not booting us out on our ears.

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