August 3, 2007

Editorial:

Immigration debate revolving around fear and hate

In 2006 Hazleton, Pa., had become a cause to celebrate for the anti-immigrant movement when the town passed some of the toughest ordinances to date. The ordinances punished undocumented immigrants for trying to live and work there, and employers and landlords for providing them with homes and jobs. For the anti-immigrant movement, they saw this as local government taking control where the Federal government failed in controlling immigration.

The idea of local cities taking control started in San Bernardino, Calif., and spread to dozens of cities throughout the country, including Escondido.

Last week Federal Judge James Munley of the Central Pennsylvania District struck down the ordinances of Hazleton and once again reaffirmed the fact that immigration is a federal responsibility. Hazleton is just one of several entities that have seen their attempts at writing immigration law struck down from Georgia to Texas and yes, even in Escondido.

The message is loud and clear: immigrant rights and enforcement of those rights is the right and responsibility of the Federal government.

But the real issue here is the cruel and inhumane attitudes that these anti-immigrant forces are willing to assume to deal with their fears. The Minutemen and their supporters are willing to take more aggressive and confrontational stances. In San Diego County it has become common practice to berate church goers, including children, verbal shouting at immigrants and anyone willing to give them a job, the name calling, the threats, one Minuteman has no problem chasing employers of immigrants with a siren attached to the top of his SUV, immigrant camps vandalized, and physical violence.

The anger isn’t confined just to the Minutemen. You can hear the anger and hate on radio and television, emails and even the faxes received at the offices of La Prensa San Diego which drip with hate and vulgarity.

Common sense, civility, and open mindedness are commodities that are quickly becoming scarce in the debate about immigration and in their place is anger and violence. Anger and violence only begets more of the same which will only lead to tragedy.

Fear is the out growth of change. Most people are uncomfortable with change and today’s society is changing and it is changing rapidly. We see it almost everyday and in places that 10 years ago you would have not seen an immigrant — in such places as Hazleton. Now immigrants and Hispanics are the backbone of their economy, and this once stoic town is today’s ground zero on the immigration issue.

One thing is certain, we cannot continue down this road of fear, hate, and violence. It is going to take leadership and a coming together on this issue to deal with immigration in a level headed fashion. The Hispanic community is growing and becoming more and more an integrated part of the American fabric and immigrants are vital part of the growth of the country and a necessity in the workforce. These facts won’t change. What must change is how we deal with issues. If not, this path we are head down will only lead to more violence and tragedy.

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