EDITOR’S NOTE: The Georgia state House and Senate recently passed an immigration bill modeled on Arizona’s SB 1070, which would allow police to verify the immigration status of anyone they suspect of being undocumented. If Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal signs the bill into law, Georgia will become the second sate to enact such a law. Parthiv N. Parekh, editor in chief of the Indian-American publication Khabar Magazine in Norcross, Ga., writes that the new immigration bill is “backwards.”
“What part of ‘ILLEGAL’ don’t you understand?”
This question is a staple sound bite used by those who feel that the sanctity of law is being compromised when “illegal aliens” are allowed to exist with impunity amongst us. This seemingly legitimate concern is often co-opted by fear mongers and hate mongers who have hijacked immigration reform to shrill anti-immigration activism—giving rise to dubious bills such as Georgia’s recently passed House Bill 87.
This constitutionally questionable bill, which Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal has indicated he will sign into law, has measures that will aggravate, alienate, and antagonize undocumented immigrants while also imposing onerous compliance requirements on Georgia’s businesses. And yet, it will do spectacularly nothing to resolve the issue at a fundamental level.
On the face of it, proponents of HB 87 seem to have a point. After all, these immigrants did sneak into the country illegally, didn’t they? Wouldn’t letting them live and operate freely amongst us amount to a mockery of the law of the land?
However, lost in the heavy fog of their incredulity against this sub-class of migrants is the fact that we—the people of the United States—are equally complicit in their illegal status. Over the past couple of decades it is we who have not only condoned them but practically sought them out for their vital role in our economy. Seduced by their cheap labor, we implicitly laid out the welcome mat for them.
Unlike Mafia dons, these workers were not underground operatives; they were laboring hard amongst us, publicly and quite visibly. Notwithstanding the token outbursts or ridicule against them, we continued to condone them, employ them, and enjoyed the fruits of their labor. Americans didn’t refuse to buy the tens of thousands of new houses during the housing boom, knowing fully well they were built largely by these workers. We didn’t boycott the farming industry and refused to buy produce, knowing fully well that it was these folks who plucked the onions and oranges found in our kitchens.
In boom times, businesses sanctioned them; consumers sanctioned them; lawmakers sanctioned them. To cry foul now—after millions of undocumented immigrants have been living here for a decade or two, and have set up homes and raised children here—is profoundly ungrateful and wrong. Worse, it amounts to entrapment.
These are not a few hundred or even a few thousand “lawbreakers,” but a few million. More than 12 million undocumented immigrants can come into a country, move into its communities, set up homes, and live and work amongst the citizens if—and only if—the host country is complicit in the act. So, to now ask sanctimoniously, “What part of ‘ILLEGAL’ don’t you understand?” is cluelessness, if not hypocrisy.
It is from this standpoint that HB 87 is mean-spirited, unjust, un-American, and an anathema to the Christian values of this nation.
Only those efforts that address the legitimate acceptance and acclimation of those undocumented immigrants who are already here, while preventing further infiltration through secured borders and other means, can lay a claim to a genuine solution to the problem. And HB 87 is simply not conceived or equipped to do so.
Other than making Georgia, along with Arizona, look backward, scaring away businesses, and satisfying the crude sensibilities of dubious vigilantes, this law will achieve nothing.