Tuesday Tirade: Tough Talk About Immigration

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Imagine you come from an area in Mexico where hundreds of women have been murdered over the last couple of decades. Or that you live in a neighborhood where you have to worry about gunfire as you take your children to school. You want a better life for yourself and your children. You decide to emigrate to the U.S. But doing it legally could, and often does, take years. Your children are young now.

Personally, I think immigration policy in this country is, and always has been, too restrictive. We are a huge country, with plenty of room and resources to support many more people than now live here. We just don’t want to share. We don’t want to have to make accommodations. And we most certainly don’t want to take on the problems of other countries.

Well, guess what, folks? We’re going to be affected by world-wide events whether we like it or not. Take Arizona for instance. From what I’ve read, Arizona has good reason to fear the violence coming over its borders from the south. But is the answer to stop any suspicious person on the street, demand identification and possibly arrest them? All we can do is deport them. What does that solve?

We need to work harder to forge alliances with the countries we interact with so that we can aid them in their efforts to better their situations. Instead, we stick our noses in their business, stir things up and then refuse their people access to our country when they find life untenable in their own.

Take Iraq for instance. I’m against the war, and always have been. But even if I were behind it, I would still feel that we need to help those whose lives we’ve disrupted. Instead, we make it next to impossible for an Iraqi to emigrate to the U.S. Even those who have served as translators for the U.S., and are at risk from reprisals,  find it difficult to find refuge in America.

There are several issues related to immigration that we need to come to terms with:

  • Racial profiling, both here in the States and overseas. Our immigration policies favor certain ethnicities and nationalities. If we don’t like them, we don’t let them in. And once they’re here, we make them feel unwelcome.
  • Self-interest. We ask not what we can do for others, but what they can do for us. That’s the bottom line. And we consider ourselves a Christian nation.
  • Favoring the most fortunate. Instead of offering refuge to those who are most vulnerable, we leave women and children, for example,  in the lurch. Too bad for them.
  • Being influenced by fear-mongers. Those who whip up anti-immigrant sentiments usually do so with fear tactics. We never stop to ask ourselves if their tirades have any basis in fact.
  • Thinking that there is only one kind of acceptable ‘American.’ We all have this ideal in our minds of what makes a true American and if a prospective immigrant doesn’t fit the profile, we don’t want him or her.
  • Being selfish. We just don’t want to share even though we have more to offer than almost any other country in the world. Part of the problem is that we use more resources per capita than any other country in the world. We don’t know how to, or don’t want to, divvy up our resources.
  • Arrogance. We assume that everyone in the world would storm our borders if we had a more open immigration policy. Well, guess what? Not everyone wants to live in in the U.S., often for very good reasons. Contrary to popular belief, there are other quality places to live in the world.

I don’t propose to be an expert about immigration, and I’m sure there are plenty of people out there who would like to set me straight. I’m also sure that I would be labeled a “bleeding-heart liberal.” If that means that I think our country should put its resources where its values are, then I’m guilty as charged.

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Ellen Keim

Ellen is a freelance writer, essayist and copy editor, living with three cats and a husband in Columbus, OH.

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