Over the past decade or so, lawmakers and elected officials in Washington and elsewhere have been debating on how best to hash out a comprehensive immigration bill that will first and foremost secure our borders and second, provide a path to citizenship to law abiding undocumented immigrants. Those in favor of securing our borders first and deal with the undocumented population second, argue that immigrants are at the root of America’s ills.
The economy is in bad shape – blame the immigrants, health care dollars are evaporating – blame the immigrants, the unemployment rate in America is skyrocketing -blame the immigrants. The truth of the matter is, immigrants bring so much to this country – starting with agriculture and ending with the service industry. Immigrants are a vital piece of this economy and the overall workforce. I dare those who are proponents of “deport them all” to follow up on their proposal; the American economy would crumble in a matter of minutes.
Again those who are advocating “deport them all” are missing one single point: the immigration issue affects all of us; yes, all 300 millions living in these United States – from Idaho to Los Angeles to Mississippi and Arizona. Each side of the debate accusing each other of pondering to their constituency for votes – we all agreed that the immigration problem has gotten out of hand and we all agree that it needs fixing – not a quick fix, I might add. Yes, in this day and age, our borders are in desperate need of securing. But it is morally wrong and humanly impossible to deport 13 million human beings and, in the process destroying the family structure of those affected.
I think the energy spent by lawmakers and others on getting political points from this debate, could be better utilized by having a real and serious bipartisan discussion to draft and pass a fair, just and humane immigration bill. The latter will address the security issue. In addition, it will allow, taxpaying, law-abiding undocumented immigrants who has no criminal past, to legally earn a living without any fear of being deported. That way, they will not be prone to abuse and threats and can come from out of their caves to live productive lives. The process will eventually weed out the bad apples amongst that population.
I have a huge problem with the latest addition to the debate: children. What children have to do with it? For the past two weeks, I have focused my attention on both sides of this debate. On one hand, Republicans and Conservatives alike make the argument that the 14th amendment, according to the forefathers, does not give birthright citizenship to children born in the United States of illegal parents. On the other hand, Democrats and Liberals advocate that it is what the forefathers meant and such amendment to the constitution would be illegal and divide the family.
I am appalled and disappointed at those who are supporting such an amendment. I am appalled, because I cannot fathom people going after the most vulnerable of our society to make a point or to win over votes; at same time, this same group appealed for family values and protection of the child. I am disappointed, because if the United States Census Bureau had reported an increase in the white European population, I would not be writing this opinion page, much less following a divisive debate to end birthright to children born of illegal immigrants.
Instead, according to the US Census Bureau the Latino population has been, for the past decade, rising and will continue to do so over the next decades. And that, my friend, is precisely the basis – in my opinion – why we are having this debate. Am I crying racism? Well read on. Just this past Thursday a 2008 study, by the Pew Hispanic Center, was published, and seems to be given ammunitions to those in favor of amending, stating that: “One child to every 15 in the United States has an illegal parent and 1 child out of 12 was born to an illegal parent.” Whatever the term one chooses to refer to these children “anchor babies” or “birth tourism,” these children should be left alone and out of this debate.
Those, in the past, who fiercely advocated for humane immigration reform are now against all sort of remedy for undocumented immigrants – including the Maverick John Mc Cain. While I am on this topic, I want to make a suggestion to those making the rounds in the media: the last time I checked, Haiti is located on this earth; in fact, it is part of this hemisphere – not somewhere far out from this planet. Thus, I was never an “Illegal Alien,” but at one point, an undocumented immigrant. Therefore, stop referring to us immigrants as ALIENS.
As for myself, since the Republicans and Conservatives are adamant about amending the 14th amendment to deny birthright to children born in the United States of illegal parents and some scholars are suggesting that they are right, I am a proponent of this measure as long as when amended and passed they make it retro to 1869, a year after the 14th amendment was adopted.
We all, citizens of this world, will benefit from a fair immigration legislation – which will acknowledge the contribution of immigrants to the United States. We cannot have an open border policy – I am not advocating for such – but rather a policy that will address the core issues of family reunification and security within and outside of our borders.
As the immigration debate rages on, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle should take stock of the mess they have created and find ways to remedy the situation. Blaming immigrants for all America’s ills is wrong and bringing children to this debate is counterproductive. I understand that this issue is a complex one, but letting fester is not an option.
Ronald Aubourg is An Executive Member of the Consortium for Haitian Empowerment. A Brooklyn-Based umbrella organization for 22 Community Based Organizations.