Published June 18, 2012
I am proud of America.
Though we have long dangled the promise of the American Dream in front of the world, we have more recently too often used our nation’s promise to taunt others.
In a world of economic struggle, in no small part created by policies pushed by big business through our government onto the globe, millions have come to see America as an oasis of bread and water amidst strife. It may be a mirage, as poverty within America is growing, but still, millions come to America looking for sustenance and salvation, only to be condemned and told to get in the back of a line that has been far too lengthy and far too broken, for far too long.
For some time now, American businesses have actively subverted our nation’s laws in order to lure low-wage immigrant workers and increase their corporate bottom line. But those on the right don’t attack big business for this dynamic, they blame those poor and desperate enough to follow the trail of crumbs the businesses set.
Somehow, immigrant workers who are picking our fruit and cleaning our homes are seen as "stealing" from America, but millionaires and billionaires who pay lower taxes than the rest of us are just "keeping what they earned."
It strikes me as profoundly hypocritical that conservatives who repeatedly proclaim themselves the defenders of patriotism and American history so blatantly lionize our nation’s kings but vilify its immigrants.
King George III gained his wealth and power through entirely legal means and was the rightful leader of the American colonies, while Christopher Columbus was an undocumented immigrant.But American history firmly sides with the latter.
Of course, with President Obama’s executive order Friday to halt deportations of young, undocumented immigrants and students, we’re not even talking about the hardworking mothers and fathers who came to our great country looking for hope and possibility. We’re talking about their kids, who were brought here when they were two years old, three years old, maybe 10 or 11, for whom America is all they have ever known.
These are the so-called "easy" cases, the most sympathetic immigrants among our nation’s undocumented, the kids who only speak English and want to be able to go to college to become doctors or teachers or entrepreneurs.
But still, those on the right attack these young Americans as law breaking criminals who steal jobs from rightful Americans. Yet, Wall Street executives who drained billions in wealth from middle class families? Model citizens.
Young Americans who want the same opportunities my great-grandparents sought? “Illegals” we should lock up and deport.
Policy disagreements aside, the sort of inhumanity with which the right wing talks about undocumented immigrants in America reflects a deep nastiness that darkens the heart of our nation.
Yes, undocumented immigrants technically broke the law. But to be clear, most undocumented immigrants didn’t “sneak across the border” as conservatives claim. The vast majority over-stayed their visas.
Of course, we need to acknowledge a violation of the law has been committed, and all proposals for comprehensive immigration reform include a penalty fine and waiting period before immigrants can access a path to citizenship. But note that there’s a big difference between the way we treat people who break speed limit laws, on the one hand, or commit murder on the other. And a lot of the extreme rhetoric against “illegals” seems to lump these immigrants in the murderer category.
Over the weekend, someone actually tried to make the case to me on Twitter that all undocumented immigrants should be deported and repeat offenders shot.
Apparently, some conservatives think the free market should not be free and open to everyone.
Apparently, some conservatives think that economic opportunity should be doled out according to a first-come, first served policy, not hard work.
Apparently, they think wealth is not a zero-sum game when it comes to taxing the rich but jobs and opportunity are finite when it comes to the poor. Apparently, they think that more people working hard doesn’t multiply opportunity but somehow depletes it.
Economic opportunity is indeed elusive in America. But somehow, many feeling that insecurity take comfort in or at least overlook the notion of a growing class of robber barons yet are deeply threatened by Latino/a immigrants coming to America to work for less than the minimum wage.
Over the last several decades, productivity in America has risen while real wages have declined. That is simply not the fault of immigrants. But perhaps blaming immigrants is easier than blaming our entire economic system, which is increasingly designed to bilk working class and middle class families for the benefit of the very rich.
But I can’t help but wonder…if conservatives were right, if all the undocumented immigrants left the United States tomorrow and unemployed Americans took all those mostly-crappy, low-paying jobs, so that the already-profound gap between high income and low-income earners were to yawn even wider and the wealth gap increase, is that the right’s idea of a solution?
Sounds infinitely worse to me than treating our fellow human beings with basic decency and extending them the opportunity that we have so long held out for the world’s awe.
President Obama did the right thing. I wish he’d done it sooner. Providing a path to citizenship for America’s undocumented immigrants was supported by President George W. Bush and, incidentally, last enacted by President Ronald Reagan.
So at the very least, I hope that conservative vitriol against undocumented immigrants has more to do with President Obama supporting them than any inherent, inhuman nastiness. I hope…
Regardless, I am very proud of America and very proud to share her promise more broadly.