June 30, 2006

Commentary:

Immigration Fears: It’s All about Sowing and Reaping

By Joe Ortiz

There is a verse in the Bible of which I have known and believed strongly for the longest time, which states, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows,” Galatians 6:7.

This verse basically states that whatever a person (or a nation) does, whether good or bad, whatever seeds they plant, the net produce will yield a like-minded harvest. Some folks call it Karma, a term that comprises the entire cycle of cause and effect. Karma is a sum of all that an individual or country has done, is currently doing and will do. The effects of all deeds actively create present and future experiences, thus making one responsible for one’s own life, and the pain in others.

During my years as a teacher in both Los Angeles and Riverside school districts, I always shared this sowing and reaping philosophy with my students. I used to tell them that they can’t plant wheat and expect a harvest of tomatoes. I used this analogy to tell them that they can’t sit back and watch others work harder than them and expect to be promoted or make the same salary they do. It was my way of telling the kids to work as hard as they could and never give up on trying to fulfill their dreams. Some of the students complained that there is too much discrimination and no matter how hard they try, many doors will be closed. I told them to never let anyone discourage them from being the best that they can be.

At the same time, I also told the predominate community (through my radio, TV talk shows and newspaper columns, that they needed to embrace minorities and bring them into all aspects of the American experience. I supported bilingual education because it helped immigrant kids to assimilate into the American mainstream at a more accelerated pace. My entire career involvement included supporting numerous scholarship programs, and basically seeking total inclusion to all economic, social and political and media institutions. I used to tell them, however, that if they continue excluding minorities from these institutions, one day those actions will come back to haunt them. My belief in the sowing and reaping axiom was the primary logic for this caveat.

Unfortunately, most of those doors remained closed, and no amount of civil dialogue was as affective as the walkouts and demonstrations in the late 60’s and early 70’s. Yet, many of us civil rights era activists tried.

Now, primarily due to America’s incessant demand for cheap labor, immigrants from Mexico cross over to this country in droves. This didn’t bother too many folks until recently; it now scares many of them to death. Sadly, the current debate on illegal immigration has brought to the surface much inherent negativity towards Latinos in general. The reasons cited are that illegal immigrants are taxing America’s education and the health delivery systems, and their presence here is now diluting its culture. Many even say that most of the criminals in American jails are illegal immigrants who have been arrested for sexual crimes.

Basically, as the Mandingo metaphor was used to keep African Americans from gaining their rightful place in the American landscape, these fallacious accusations are being used to incite white America to stop more Mexicans from coming into this country. However, there is a major difference in the historical xenophobic saga of blacks and Mexicans. Africans did not migrate to America; they were forcibly brought here to function as slave laborers. The Mexican experience could be considered worse. While Mexico is one of America’s closest neighbors, we have always been treated as “those people” from the other side of the tracks.

The United States could have openly welcomed Mexicans to share equally in the America Dream a long time ago. They say they have, but only to a certain point, always reminding us to keep ourselves in our place. There has nevery truly been an acceptance, even while they insist we have to assimilate or at least acculturate to their own identifty. While many of us have tried, they still treat Mexicans as mere peons.

A colleague of mine, Xavier Hermosillo, (the 2nd Mexican American to conduct a significant talk show on KABC Radio) made a statement 15 years ago concerning the affect unwelcome immigration was having on this country, which received much media attention, but little follow up by America’s institutions. Hermosillo coined the phrase, “Wake up America, and smell the refried beans.”

Hermosillo was in essence stating that, whether Americans like it or not, Mexicans are part of the fabric of this country’s freedom quilt, if for no other reasons than that they are already here. This is what scares many white Americans. No “ship them back to Mexico” legislation will change this. America has always had a chance to welcome Mexicans with open arms, to participate in every aspect of the American Dream. But it didn’t!

It’s plain and simple! America is now reaping what it sowed.

Joe Ortiz has the distinction of being the first Mexican American to host an English-language talk show on a commercial radio station (KABC Talk Radio, 1971). He is the author of The End Times Passover, a book that refutes the Left Behind and many right-wing evangelical doctrines. He lives in Redlands and writes for several local and national periodicals. http://groups.msn.com/TheEndTimesPassover.

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