June 15, 2007

Editorial:

Immigration Bill is on life support

With the proposed immigration bill, what would have been a big surprise is if it would have been a sensible enough piece of legislation to actually pass. That it didn’t even reach the Senate floor was no real surprise. The bill was doomed from the start.

It was introduced with bipartisan support, but it just didn’t go far enough to satisfy anyone. For the immigrant and Hispanic communities, it didn’t speak to family reunification, citizenship or education. For the anti-Hispanic side, the bill didn’t go far enough to punish, reject, or secure the border. So those most vocal about it, from both sides, hated it. The only ones who seemed in favor was big business, who saw the bill as a steady stream of cheap labor.

Then there are the politicians who tend to see issues through a myopic set of lenses instead of viewing issues in their entirety. They saw the issue as to how it would affect them (and their reelection chances). If the politicians had taken a broad look at the issue, they would have seen that the majority of the citizens wanted to see a new immigration bill passed that allowed for some sort of legalization process and do not see immigrants as the root of all evil. Unfortunately, the majority of our society is often all too silent, so the only voices the politicians hear are a vociferous minority who were able to frame this issue to suit their purpose.

The issue of immigration is just too big an issue to deal with in a two week time period that the Senate gave itself, and expect to come to a compromise on an issue that affects so many and has been a hot button issue for decades.

For the immigrant community, they are doing battle with one hand tied behind their back. They can’t vote, and as such, do not impact local politicians. Immigrants are dependent on immigration rights organizations and special interest groups such as big business to represent them. The only way immigrants can affect the debate on the issue is through the weight of their economic impact (as demonstrated by recent marches across the nation) and their value as workers. For the anti-immigrant community, they have the weight of the vote to persuade and influence.

For US Hispanic citizens and legalized immigrants, who could provide the political muscle to move this issue forward, the issue of immigration, though important, is not the most important issue to them in terms of their daily life, where we wake each morning worrying about our job, the kids, and our retirement. The immigration issue we see as not directly impacting us, even though it does. Then, there is the nagging issue that Hispanics don’t vote, not in the numbers that reflect their population. Herein lies the problem with seeing a sensible immigration bill being passed. Politicians can act with impunity.

The immigration bill is not officially dead. It is still being reworked and the politicians are making major changes to reflect a more punitive, security structured bill that appeases the opponents who want to restrict legalization, if not cut it off all together. This type of legislation will only confirm the impressions that the extremists, anti-Mexican segments of our community are spreading: that we are the problem and not a part of the solution. And we would like to emphasize the fact that as Hispanic citizens or not, we are viewed equally as the problem.

When we as Hispanics start voting in the numbers that reflect our community, politicians will be elected who represent our best interest as a community and bills such as the immigration bill will be re-worked that reflects the Hispanic community and not the anti-Hispanic community.

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