It's time to take a stand against the anti-immigration zealots

Mexican and Latino janitors hold a candlelight...

Image by AFP via @daylife

First came the law that mandates racial profiling in Arizona. Now an Arizona legislator is working on a plan that would defy the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution by denying citizenship to the children of illegal immigrants born in this country.

Republican State Sen. Russell Pearce wants to withhold birth certificates of children born in his state unless at least one parent can prove legal status, according to an AP article in my Boston Globe today.

Never mind that the language and intent of the 14th Amendment, adopted in 1868, are crystal clear: “All persons born … in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside.’’

Today’s article in The Globe follows by less than a week one the paper wrote about 19-year-old Harvard sophomore Eric Balderas. The son of a single mother who left an abusive husband, he grew up in San Antonio, Texas, where he was valedictorian of his high school. Harvard offered him a full scholarship.

But none of that made a damn bit of difference to immigration officials who handcuffed him on a visit home. Why?  Balderas entered this country illegally — at Age 4.  He faces deportation to a country, Mexico, he left before he entered kindergarten.

Reading these two articles, one word comes to mind: Enough.

I believe it’s time for Americans to choose a side on immigration rather than to stand on the sidelines.  This isn’t someone else’s battle.  The immigration wars touch this country’s soul.

Are we going to reaffirm the American spirit that welcomed generations of displaced, poor and persecuted so they could build better lives and, along the way, a better United States?  Or are we going to watch as bigots build walls and fences, spread fear of illegals stealing jobs and selling drugs, and — let’s speak the truth — do all they can to keep American predominantly white for as long as possible.

Do we wish to side with the Russell Pearces of the world, who in their frenzy to keep out Latinos, have conveniently forgotten that the Irish, the Italians,  the Poles, the German and Eastern European Jews — heck, even indentured servants who made their way here on the Mayflower — all endured bigotry in their time to built a better country?

Or do we want to stand with young people like Eric Balderas, people with dreams, passion and promise, even when they arrive in this country with little but the clothes on their back. For it is only the smart and determined who manage to get here in the first place, whether their path is legal or not. They hunger for a better life.

Harvard spokeswoman Christine Heenan said this to The Globe:

“Eric Balderas has already demonstrated the discipline and work ethic required for rigorous university work and has, like so many of our undergraduates, expressed an interest in making a difference in the world … These dedicated young people are vital to our nation’s future …

The so-called Dream Act stalled in Congress would give students like Balderas a chance to have an impact legally. Among other things, The Globe notes, it would “create a path to legal residency for youths who arrived before they turned 16 and have lived here for five years. They would have to complete two years of college or the military, among other requirements to qualify.”

Men like Pearce instead would shut the door even on those who under the Constitution have a legal right to contribute to this country — citizens whose parents may have come here illegally precisely to give their children the opportunity they lacked.

If men like Pearce can divide us with fear, if we support laws that force some Americans to carry documents just as the Jews of Germany did before they were shipped to concentration camps,  it is not only American immigrants who stand in jeopardy but the very foundations of our country and political system.

That’s why the next time opponents of Arizona’s anti-immigration law organize a protest, I don’t plan to clap discreetly from my office window. I’ll shut down my computer, lock arms and march beside them.


About jerrylanson

I teach, write, coach and sing, though you're not required to listen to the latter. I'm a journalism professor at Emerson College in Boston. My third book, "Writing for Others, Writing for Ourselves," was published in November by Rowman & Littlefield Publishing. You can read a sample chapter at My passions are politics (generally liberal in outlook), music, mountains, golden retrievers and my grandchildren, though not in that order. Please stop by and mix it up with me. I always answer those who post.
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One Response to It's time to take a stand against the anti-immigration zealots

  1. Pingback: Once in awhile, even true stories have happy endings - Jerry Lanson - News Prints - True/Slant

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