Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

Illegal immigrants more like us than we’re willing to admit

Whenever some Americans want to treat people poorly they use language to cast them as somehow less than human.

Blacks, American Indians, Chinese, Japanese, Irish, Italians, Catholics, Jews and many others have all been subjected to derision and prejudice at some time in our history.

It makes it easier to treat people poorly when you think them unworthy of basic rights and protections of the law.

The current debate over illegal immigration is no different. The most used term of derision has been “criminal,” portraying all illegal immigrants as bloodthirsty killers and rapists. Who wouldn’t want to round up and deport criminals?

The fact is, illegal immigrants don’t commit crimes at a greater rate than any other impoverished subgroup. It’s poverty that spurs crime, not immigration status.

The latest effort to cast illegal immigrants as something other than human is to refer to their children born in the United States as “anchor babies” rather than as what they are: Americans.

Arizona Sen. Russell Pearce, who along with Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio are the de facto leaders of the state’s anti-immigration hysteria – has said he’s considering introducing another anti-immigration bill that will challenge the 14th Amendment’s definition of citizenship – anyone born in the United States – in an attempt to make it easier to deport illegal immigrants who have American children.

It’s far easier to argue for the deportation of “anchor babies” along with their “criminal” parents, than to suggest deporting American citizens and their parents to some foreign land.

The truth is most illegal immigrants are good people. Consider the character it takes to do what they did.

First, they need the gumption to leave their homes to make a better life for themselves and their families. Then they need the courage and toughness to endure an arduous trip to the border and a brutal crossing into America. From there, they work long hours for low pay doing difficult and sometimes backbreaking jobs, living in fear of being caught all the while. And despite the austerity of their lives here, most of them still send a large portion of their earnings home to their families.

So to sum up, the vast majority of illegal immigrants are resilient, resourceful, brave, tough, hard working, thrifty people who love and support their families.

Sound familiar? Kinda sounds like the definition of the quintessential American, doesn’t it? And for good reason. We’re all immigrants, children of immigrants or descended from immigrants. They are us, we are them.

Illegal immigration is a complex problem that will require multiple solutions, including temporary worker visas, crackdowns on employers who hire illegal labor, tougher border enforcement and a path to citizenship for those already here who have lived decent, honest lives.

Casting all illegal immigrants as villains denies the ancestry of all Americans and what it means to be an American.

To borrow a phrase from ministers on the stump for Jesus, you can hate the sin of illegal immigration but you should at least respect the immigrant. They’re more like us than some would like to admit.

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