Tuesday, March 23, 2010

200,000 For Immigration Reform

I'm hopeful that passage of the health insurance reform bill Sunday will be the dam breaking for a number of important changes whose time have come, including repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell, jobs legislation, climate change, and financial industry reform. Another issue I believe in, and that I hope will be addressed over the summer is comprehensive immigration reform.

It is unfortunate that the undeniable drama on Sunday surrounding Health Care Reform drowned out the fact that around 200,000 people gathered in Washington DC last weekend to ask for comprehensive immigration reform.

You can read the New York Times article on the march.
Demonstrators filled five lengthy blocks of the Washington Mall, down the hill from the Capitol where last-minute negotiations were under way on the health care bill. The immigrant activists, chanting Mr. Obama’s campaign slogan of “Yes we can” in Spanish and English, tried to compete with their numbers for public and media attention which were mainly focused on the climactic health care events in the House of Representatives.

The rally brought the return to major street action by immigration activists, who turned out hundreds of thousands of protesters in marches and rallies in 2006. - The New York Times
The millions of undocumented migrants living in America are a major issue for our nation. "Kick them all out" has been our policy for the past eight years, and it has been worse than no policy, it has been actively harmful to our economy and human rights.

I believe that we should have comprehensive immigration reform, now. From the policy perspective, some path to legalization for those already here would mitigate the evils to which having an undocumented underclass tend. From lowering wages for workers to exacerbating the health care crisis, the fact that these people (and they are people, not "criminals" or "them.") are undocumented is at the root of the problems that they are perceived to cause. Our nation is weaker for not having these residents integrated into our society.

We are also weaker for the tales of exploitation and injustice that undocumented status engenders. Just as America's character and moral authority are eroded by Abu Ghirab and Guantanamo, so too are they tarnished by how we treat our neighbors from other countries who are participating in our society. Because participate they do. They pay taxes, they start businesses, their citizen children assimilate and excel. Heck, they go to church! When we allow neighbors to be taken, locked up and deported without consequence it can decimate our towns.

And then there is American history itself. Ours is a nation of immigrants. Each of us has, in our backgrounds, an ancestor who couldn't speak the language, and was spat upon and ridiculed by "real" Americans when they first arrived. Each of us is the result of the ability of that immigrant to rise above the hate, ignorance and systematic discrimination to make a life for themselves and their family here in the nation that has served as a beacon of hope for two hundred years.

To rail against immigration reform is to rail against the very fabric of American society and a foundation of American prosperity and ingenuity. To rail against immigration reform is to denigrate the spirit of our forefathers, immigrants all.

I hope that immigration reform comes next. The dam has broken. The time has come.

(Note that we're talking about immigration reform, not "open borders and amnesty." Keep that in mind when the Republicans start telling you immigration reform means that violent Mexican drug gangs will be free to come to suburbia and rape your daughters with impunity.)

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