Curtain Raiser

Turn the Corner on Immigration, Colltalers

Once again, Washington is abuzz over a new set of proposals to overhaul immigration legislation, a long due task that’s been successively tackled, twisted, mangled, and ultimately, left to die out many times in the past.
Perhaps the Obama administration, despite its lackluster Latin American foreign policy, may be the one to finally treat the millions of mostly Hispanic undocumented workers in this country with the dignity and sense of fairness they’ve earned and deserve.
As it stands now, though, the president’s proposed bill is far from being one that the huge contingent of Americans with families abroad would be writing them about. And, going against the grain here, the problem may not even be in the details.
The fact is that this newest attempt, as many in the past, is mainly based on the misguided idea that reform the draconian federal and state-level immigration laws currently in place is a legal imperative, not a common sense one.
So, despite immigration being not just a defining cornerstone of U.S. history, but also an issue affecting our own definition of family and community, much more ink is being wasted in making sure that any changes will be loaded with border security concerns.
Which, let’s face it, at this point in history, is ridiculous. For unlike 20 or 30 years ago, those who’re still trying to become an integral part of the U.S. citizenry are coming to a considerably depleted and much less attractive labor market than it used to be.
In fact, something must be said about this huge contingent that seems to have an even higher faith in the ability of the U.S. economy to recover than even those who’re born here. And who’re willing to work and labor for less than the minimum wage.
Something else has radically changed since the demoralized legislation approved by the Reagan administration, in 1986: a much larger percentage of Americans are now living barely above the poverty line and, in many ways, this leveling by the bottom has become the norm, not the exception.
This new reality of the U.S. labor market, where unskilled workers are no longer coming primarily from South of the border, but are also made up of dispossessed and near destitute, illiterate Americans, is way more of a deterrent to illegal immigration than any self-appointed vigilante group, armed to the teeth and full of dangerous racist and xenophobic assumptions could possibly be.
And yet, people are still trying to tell us that they believe in what once was called the American Dream, even though a similarly named legislation, the Dream Act, crashed and burned recently before it could bring them any benefits.
But as Congress seems to be poised to break its own record of inaction, hopes are once again high that this time justice will prevail and a clear, and timely, path to citizenship can be bestowed to those who’ve already put on the work towards it.
The president has certainly some currency to spend in order to help move the issue through the usual obstacles, and sign a new, and fairer, legislation by the end of the first year of his final term. It’d be something he could deservedly be proud about.
It could also be, in some ways, a reconciliation of America with its past and ideals of equality that infuse the U.S. Constitution. After all, immigrants born here or abroad are still the core of our armed forces, our service and hospitality industries, and our farm and agricultural wealth. There would be no favors to grant those who spilled blood, sweat and tears for this country the right to be counted and have a legal claim on its future.
Be good and have a great week. WC

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