Thoughts on immigrants, immigration

Published 5:02 pm Tuesday, February 21, 2017

I don’t know why immigration is suddenly such a hot-button issue these days.
Growing up in South Texas, I have fond memories of walking across the border for a day trip and I grew up surrounded with Hispanic culture. If anyone thought seriously that any of my friends or classmates or neighbors were undocumented I was unaware. My Hispanic neighbors were just part of the community and Mrs. Maldonado, the elderly Hispanic woman who looked after me when I was very small, was just a kindly elderly woman who fed me tortillas and refried beans. She didn’t speak English but I managed to pick up enough Spanish at the age of 4 to sufficiently appreciate her warnings about the cucuy that lived in the hot water heater alcove (and anywhere else I wasn’t supposed to go).
I have no idea how any of these people got here. I assume, if one goes back long enough through each family tree, somewhere in there might have been an illegal border crossing. But I am glad they got here because these people and their descendants have made my life richer.
We can talk about facts all day. The fact is, illegal immigration from Latin America has been declining. The fact is, many illegal immigrants these days come from Asia. The fact is, many illegal immigrants get here legally through a visa and they overstay that visa. The fact is, a border wall and a travel bans won’t prevent any of that. The fact is, mass round ups of undocumented residents won’t make us any safer or better off.
But human beings cannot be reduced to statistics and so fact-based arguments on immigration render lifeless a conversation that should be as alive and as vibrant as the dreams and hopes of any of us. The most important fact is this: Immigrants and would be-migrants and people who live a thousand miles away and who do not speak English and have no desire to ever live in the U.S. have essentially the same dreams and hopes as you and I do. People the world over want some variation on the same things. We are nothing if not boring in our predictability.
I agree with anyone who says we should help immigrants do the right thing and become legal, documented residents. From what I’ve read, that’s what most of them want and it would beef up our tax revenues and it would protect undocumented residents from abuse. However, when the path to citizenship is so high as to be nigh impossible, helping people do the right thing itself becomes impossible. The system needs to be fixed, yes, but walls and bans are no solutions.
The thing to fear is not the immigrant but those cheap politicians and small-minded men who would have us believe such solutions are impossible or impractical. Anyone who would have us believe we are not clever enough or brave enough or strong enough or just not good enough to lend a hand out to a fellow in need is too small minded to truly lead us anywhere worth going. We must not follow.
Amid the talk of bans and walls is also a rising feeling of discontent and outrage from some quarters. In December, the New York Times reported a rise in hate crimes against foreign-looking people of 35 percent over the prior year in that city. Closer to home, in January, a mosque in Victoria was burned, and authorities say it was arson. Such things are outrageous but predictable when we suggest certain people should be banned or walled off from us. There is bitter irony in the fact that these bans and a wall that are supposed to ensure safety have made us less safe.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox