Well, our Congress has finally decided to tackle the issue of immigration. It’s about time because the current system is broken.
God only knows what the government will come up with. (Let’s hope they deliver more than they did on “gun control.”) A handful of bellicose politicians are calling for moats and electric fences along the Mexican border. Alabama and Arizona have authorized police to detain anyone who’s appearance or demeanor – whatever that might mean – suggests they aren’t U.S. citizens. A few states have denied undocumented workers the ability to obtain a driver’s license.
A small, but very vocal, collection of Americans dislike seeing so many brown faces in bars and restaurants, even though they frequently dine in Mexican cafés. And they resent Latinos speaking Spanish anywhere around them.
Then too, on top of everything else, there’s the notion that Mexicans work cheap, take jobs away from others and funnel dope into the country.
So it goes. As with earlier immigrants – whether Irish or Italian or Japanese or Ghanese – “established” U.S. citizens often feel the Mexican newcomers are a threat to the American economy and culture.
Sorry, but I disagree.
The vast majority of Latinos appear to be model citizens and they’re getting a bum rap. In most cases they aren’t really taking jobs away from Americans. Though it’s true they’re making some headway in housing construction, the overwhelming majority of the jobs they have are those that employers find hard to fill. We often hear that Mexican drug cartels are running wild through our towns and cities and there may be a small grain of truth in that. A few years ago, Latino gangs had so thoroughly infiltwallrated Yakima it had become a national drug distribution center.
But we should be careful before drawing any conclusions or generalities from these examples. Latino criminal activities often capture the headlines, yet in fact these outlaws represent only a fraction of Mexican immigration in general. While other racial and ethnic groups may be over-represented in Washington’s state prisons, this isn’t true of Latinos. They make up 11 percent of our state’s population but only 8 percent of our prison population.
This shouldn’t be surprising. Most Mexicans are devout Catholics, family-oriented and hard-working. Those who are here illegally have an even stronger reason to obey the law and avoid the police because, of course, they don’t want to be deported.
Cliché as it may be, it’s important to remember that we’re all descendants of immigrants.