The League of United Latin American Citizens, (LULAC), the largest and oldest Hispanic membership organization in the country recently release this statement on the Republican Presidential candidates anti-immigration remarks:
Presidential hopefuls often say just about anything to make a quick news bite. I don’t begrudge them the need to maximize on the opportunity to get their message to the public. The American people should be afforded every opportunity to learn about their candidate. However, I have to take note that regardless of how ignorant or baseless their comments get, they don’t seem too concerned with the facts. They are more concerned with getting a statement out there and leaving their highly paid advisors, communications and public affairs firms to spin it right. For now, I will focus on making things right from the immigration perspective.
In a campaign stop in Oskaloosa, Iowa presidential contender, Michele Bachmann, made it a point to say that she would do nothing for children of illegal immigrants and further brought up her own family’s history. She claimed that when her immigrant family came to the US in the 1850s they came legally and received zero benefits. Ms. Bachmann totally ignored the benefits of living in a free country and seeing a granddaughter or great-granddaughter aspire to the highest office in the land.
I take issue with her assertion that her family received “zero benefits” when they came to this country. This notion does not hold water against the hard realities for most immigrant families who might have shared the voyage that Bachmann claims her family took in coming to this country. In fact, it is disingenuous to claim that families were not aided by immigration laws and came to this country legally in the 1850s. During the 1800s and around the turn of the century the U.S. was pretty generous to immigrants and their families facilitating what today would be called benefits. In addition, this country benefitted from a constant flow of immigration.
I would hope that before presidential hopefuls take any policy positions, they would educate themselves on the issues. Although history isn’t everyone’s forte, surely there are efficient ways of becoming informed. This country has a long, rich and complicated immigration past that merits at least some attention paid to understanding it. Presidential hopefuls cannot be allowed to rewrite this country’s immigration history because it suits their needs today.
It seems to me, the presidential contenders are on the same message — coming across as hard liners against immigrants and/or immigration reform. One might question from where their ancestors arrived. Terms like “anchor baby” and “illegal aliens” make it easier to marginalize currently undocumented people. These are deliberate decisions made to win elections. I leave the political theorists to analyze their politics, psychiatrists to figure out their intentions and God to judge their hearts.
Not that long ago, immigration was seen as a road to citizenship where asylum was granted gratuitously for those fleeing persecution. Ironically, today’s immigration is seen through fearful lenses, while we simultaneously remember our immigration history with admiration and pride. We are a young country that has accomplished so much in its short but rich history. History will judge how we approach immigration reform and we need to do it now.