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MY WORD: Immigrants are people, no matter their status

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We cannot allow our hypocrisy to demonize a population that is here to work and to live a better life for their future generations.

By Sarah Fouts

Our nation has 10.6 million undocumented individuals. This number is down from 11.6 million because of the recession and xenophobic sentiments expressed by U.S. citizens. This number is astounding; however, our nation and society has historically created a dependency on these immigrants to keep our nation functioning. More recently through neoliberal policies and NAFTA, we, as a nation, have fostered this great migration of people north. Specifically, by removing tariffs on agricultural exports to Mexico from the U.S., we have taken away jobs from hundreds of thousands of Mexican agricultural workers in Mexico. We have created the path for migration by eliminating their jobs on their soil. As free markets and invisible hands continue to prevail, we must realize the consequences and injustices that prevail as well. We have fostered this vast influx of Latino migration through our own self-interests. Is it fair to let the men and women suffer because of our prosperity? Locally, whether it is cheap agricultural labor, factory workers, employees in the horse industry, day laborers, domestic employers or construction workers we are dependent on this community to fulfill these roles. In the current job crisis, where unemployment is high, we are still dependent on these migrant workers. We try to use them as a scapegoat for our frustrations, but it is clear that the majority of American citizens would not opt to work in such horrid conditions for such low pay. Rather than punish those that employ and oftentimes exploit these migrant workers, we pigeonhole and demonize the Latino migrant worker. We blame the Latino community for our woes and aim to prevent any social services from reaching this community. We blame them for being a drain on our school system and dub them as a tax burden when they too contribute to our society. They pay sales taxes, indirectly pay property taxes (through rent), oftentimes pay income taxes through the ITIN number, are helping to further stimulate the economy as a marketable business opportunity and are immeasurably contributing positively to the diversity and richness of our community. Undeniably, this population of 10.6 million could contribute even more positively to our nation if they are allowed to live here legally. They would no longer have to thrive in an underground economy, and they would be able to purchase homes, vehicles, and other items legally. Let’s just see how the mass exodus of 10.6 million people from the U.S. to their native country would negatively affect our economy and our population. We, instead, seek to deny social services and are even threatening to rewrite the 14th Constitutional amendment to disallow persons born on American soil to become U.S. citizens. We seek to pass a bill that will force police officers (who are already weighed down because of limited staff and funding) to racially profile by getting “federal verification of a person they believe could be here illegally.” That leaves much gray area and discretion upon a city police force that receives no diversity training to select “a person they believe could be here illegally.” Talk about individual rights!? Why not make everyone subject to such intimate probing? Or, perhaps, no one at all? As I conclude, I already hear the statement, “but they are here illegally.” Yes, they crossed a border to pursue a better life and more opportunity. So have we as a nation. We are crossing borders positively and negatively without punishment and without question as we outsource low-wage jobs, tap new global markets, vacation abroad and experiment with new medical drugs on unassuming populations. My point is that borders are disappearing as the world becomes more global. We cannot allow our hypocrisy to demonize a population that is here to work and to live a better life for their future generations. The immigration quagmire in a land built by immigrants has been allowed to fester far too long causing much polarization in a nation already plagued with enough challenges. And, most importantly, we are all human beings, not “legals” or “illegals” or “aliens.” Immigration is a federal issue, not a local or state issue. This is not a smoking ban or a wet/dry ordinance. It is policy making that affects the lives of people. Sarah Fouts lives in Shelbyville.