The summer of our discontent
Time is on our side. Obama meets with Brewer, pero poco pasa. The Schumer and Graham immigration bill is sidelined. Phoenix witnesses dueling immigration rallies. That’s current news. Years hence, this issue will still writhe. We are strong now and we will get stronger. We will not only endure, we will prevail.
We have made great progress in the 50 years since I was a teenage border crosser in the Eisenhower “Tortilla Curtain” era. I started job hunting when the convention was not “equal opportunity employer” but “Mexicans need not apply.”
Violations of our civil rights have been frequent since 1848. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ceded 55 percent of Mexico and theoretically provided citizenship and property rights to Mexicans living in the expanded U.S. Professor Carlos Vélez-Ibáñez at ASU reviewed the deportations or internments of citizens over 150 years; it’s a sordid history. To change this historic course, I make the following suggestions:
Let’s forge alliances with caring Anglos and organizations. Nationwide, the U.S. Council of Bishops and in Maricopa County the Valley Interfaith Project (VIP) actively educate and mobilize individuals and organizations. Working together, ¡Sí se puede!
We should not demonize our adversaries. Let them do the demonizing. We can poignantly document the cases that transpire right now of grievous violations of our civil rights. We can stir the instinct for fair play in most Americans.
We must be accurate. To claim that the new legislation is because suddenly Americans can’t tolerate the election of President Obama is not true, and we should have confidence in our fellow Americans. The 58 percent of voters who favor a law like Arizona’s in their home state is countervailed by 80 percent who support creating a program allowing undocumented immigrants to become legal. Most Americans don’t have fixed, passionate views on this subject. They are swayed short term by spin on each extreme. We are better served by honestly documenting the existing injustices – there is no shortage of examples to draw from. At a recent VIP rally at the Creighton Elementary School, nothing moved the crowd more than the individuals who recounted their own harrowing personal tribulations. As we did with the civil rights movement beginning in the 1950s, a strategy of sincere testimony will win the hearts of Americans once more.
We have huge positives and we should deploy them. We need a stronger voter registration campaign, and this crisis is a perfect opportunity for it. We should exercise our demographic power in the schools where soon the majority of students will cumulatively be minorities. We should partner with businesses, churches, and philanthropic organizations where we have the market power to be taken seriously or where we can count on caring and morally upright allies.
My last observation for now: Refute the strategy of those who conflate increased racial profiling around the state with the issue of border security. Senate Bill 1070 has nothing to do with the border, per se. More vigilantes along the Mexican-U.S. border will not impede determined terrorists who don’t enter that way. Over 40 percent of illegal immigrants fly into the United States on temporary visas and then stay illegally. Terrorists are well educated and financially supported. The notion that they sneak across the border together with desperate immigrants who take jobs that native-born Americans refuse to consider is just ludicrous.