Who is driving the immigration issue?
When we first hear the word “immigrant,” most people have the tendency to attach some negative feeling to it, although this country is made up mostly of immigrants. But Americans thinking poorly of immigrants is nothing new. Whether it was the Irish, Polish, Germans during WWI or Japanese during WWII, somehow we have this little gnawing sense that we’re the only ones entitled to this great land.
Today, its not any one particular country or culture that we don’t want any more immigrants from, it seems it’s every immigrant. “Illegal immigration” is what people cite as their most common fear when it comes to people from other lands, even when these people don’t even know what that exactly means.
Take HR 418, The REAL ID Act, which passed the U.S. House of Representatives this week. On the surface, it looks like a bill everyone would want to support. Issuing driver’s licenses to “illegal immigrants” is a very controversial subject. Some states, such as Kansas, which did issue driver’s licenses to those who couldn’t prove they were in the country legally prior to 2000, voted not to do it anymore. California has faced similar discussion. In Kansas, it isn’t only Hispanic social services agencies and advocacy organizations that have been fighting the state legislature; it’s been law enforcement as well.
Yes, that’s right. Law enforcement feels it is better to know who is in the country by issuing undocumented people id, rather than not know. They also feel it is safer for you and I on the streets to have a licensed, insured driver, rather than one who can’t get insurance because he has no driver’s license.
However, HR 418, if it passes the U.S. Senate, would strip the states of their rights to make that decision. Congressman Dennis Moore issued a statement, which read that the law would “further subject the states to unfunded mandates to conform their driver’s licenses and identification cards to federal standards.” That’s unfunded—as our states are going to need more money to adhere to the new federal guidelines. And where do the states go when they need more money?
The bill contains a few more provisions, which local social service agencies have called “disturbing,” including allowing bail bondsmen the right to apprehend undocumented immigrants, even though they are not trained in immigration enforcement and many of them are questionably trained in anything.
Even more disturbing is the rest of the bill, which will require people who are seeking asylum based on religious or political persecution to prove that those reasons are the primary reason of persecution if they return to their home country. That provision is why some human rights organizations have joined Hispanic organizations to oppose that bill.
In speaking with a representative of El Centro, Inc., this week about the bill, she said they oppose such legislation because instead of using our vast economic resources to fix a broken immigration system, we are using it to construct a fence along the Mexican-American border. I’ve spoken with several immigrants who are undocumented in this country. Many of them were once here on visas and because the immigration system is in such shambles, after 5 or even 10 years, their applications for permanent residency had still not been addressed. When their visas expired, they left the country, sometimes leaving U.S. born American citizens here with relatives who have been approved. Rather than keep their families apart, they re-enter the country “illegally.” Other families who’ve applied for residency simply stay once their visas expire, rather than uproot their families and their new and often, better lives. Who would not want that for their children?
So, when people here say, “Well, my ancestors came here ‘legally,” these people aren’t even talking about the same immigration system. It’s like comparing the current Republican Party to that of Abraham Lincoln.
The people who understand and work with the immigration crisis everyday would like to see a real conversation about why there are so many “illegal” immigrants here and what really can be done to fix the problem. Rather than promise undocumented immigrants in this country worker visas to court the Hispanic vote, it’s time that this administration take some real action on immigration and work to fix a system that is in chaos.
Like many people in law enforcement will tell you, this legislation will do nothing to protect the citizens of the U.S. at all.
An American tradition, good old immigrant bashing at its finest.