Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Choosing Freedom over Fear

It is a well-known and well documented strategy of those in power to keep the masses in a constant state of fear. This is nothing new. However, we seem to be approaching an era of such mass paranoia that I wonder whether we'll ever be able to actually recover. The most recent manifestation of this crushing reality was initiated on September 11, 2001. Since that day, we've been terrified of terrorists and anyone who looks like them. But that was only the beginning. Between gay marriage, terror alerts, the "Axis of Evil," and bird flu, it is amazing that society has not begun constructing bomb shelters or committing mass suicides.

We now stand on the precipice of a new nadir, one to which I truly believed us incapable of sinking. Make no mistake about it, the US Congress, who seems to have nothing better to do than dismantle our civil liberties and freedoms, is about to pass the "Fugitive Slave Act." No, they are not naming it that, but they may as well be.

This atrocious proposal (HR 4437) would destroy families by dividing parents from their U.S. citizen children, and husbands from their wives. It would prevent our country from providing safe haven to families seeking refuge from war, persecution, or violence. It would expand immigrant detention, prosecute and imprison U.S. citizen family members, deport legal residents (those holding green cards) for minor criminal offenses, and turn our local police into immigration agents. This bill makes all undocumented immigrants felons and requires all employers to verify the immigration status of its employees. This proposal would turn our nation into a police state. We already look twice at every Arab walking down the street. This bill requires us to do the same with Latinos.

This is not simply anti-immigration. HR4437 (and its counterpart in the Senate) plays heavily on our fears: fears regarding our rapid job losses and declining quality of life, fears of creating a new permanent underclass, and most directly, fears of millions of poor, non-English speakers pouring through our borders. President Bush actually had the audacity to say,"Part of enforcing our borders is to have a guest-worker program that encourages people to register their presence, so that we know who they are and says to them, 'If you're doing a job an American won't do, you're welcome here for a period of time to do that job.' " Our borders are now open for people who want to come do the menial jobs that are below us. "The job an American won't do." Once their job is done, we are done with them.

This is the sequel. The prequel consisted of Native Americans being assimilated, African Americans working plantations, Chinese Americans building the railroad, Japanese Americans rotting in internment camps, and Arab Americans all being terrorists. We do need to regain control of our borders, but this is not the way. This Act does nothing to resolve the serious immigration issues our nation faces: it merely drives the problem underground. It destroys human dignity and eliminates the beacon of light that the United States has shown to countless generations.

Immigrants now are what they have always been. Our neighbors, friends, and co-workers. They work in our fields, our farms, and our factories. They serve as police officers, firemen, doctors, attorneys, strawberry pickers, janitors, waiters, teachers, and small business owners. They volunteer, run for office, and serve the public. They are here, like all of us, to make a good life for themselves, their family, and their community. They have the same thing they have always had: an unparalleled work ethic and a desire to improve their lives.

In 1883, Emma Lazarus penned words that came to symbolize a nation and visualize a dream. "Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!" These words were like a warm blanket for most of our ancestors, welcoming them to the land of the free as they sailed past the Statue of Liberty. Read them again. These are words of inspiration, not fear. They are words of welcome, not deportation. Call your Senator and Congressional Representative and tell them we will not be afraid. Fear cannot coexist with freedom. We choose freedom.

1 comment:

Larry said...

You wrote in the third to last paragraph of your post:

"We do need to regain control of our borders, but this is not the way."

How do you suggest we gain control of our borders?