All Hail: Immigration mindset needs change

The recent immigration raid in New Bedford made me think about what lies ahead for this country. As a Mexican-American I was angered to hear innocent individuals, working under hostile conditions and earning just enough to survive, were seen as dangerous criminals.

News stories and local officials spoke about New Bedford residents feeling sorry for those held because they were “hard-working people” according to a factory employee quoted in the Boston Globe’s article, “Fear grips kin after immigration raid” on March 8. Governor Deval Patrick called the situation a “humanitarian crisis” for families wondering what would happen to those captured. Many people complained the raid was unfair. However, their complaints about this problem offer no real solution.

People may feel sorry, but they still look down on illegal workers. Even students on campus are sometimes afraid to discuss the situation. Unless a change in American mentality takes place, illegal immigrants will always be disliked.

Don’t illegal workers deserve basic rights because they do the “dirty” jobs U.S. citizens don’t want? What should Americans do in the face of this problem when the reality is that illegal immigrants are an integral part of our economic stability and, now, culture?

Everywhere we turn foreign languages are heard. Illegal immigrants are settling in the United States and starting families. Their children are obtaining educations and jobs that help the country. Many Americans have acquaintances who are, or are linked to, someone who is illegally living in the United States. I am sure you too know someone who is an illegal immigrant or at least have a connection to one. We no longer need six degrees of separation to know “these” people. And still, we want to get rid of them.

Anti-immigration activists like Republican Colorado representative and presidential candidate Tom Tancredo said on March 12 at Thomas More College: “We are so into blaming America for everything … as if it were our fault that they came here illegally.”

Closer to home, a certain patriotic student newspaper editor voices hateful remarks, similar to Tancredo’s, against immigration continuously. Efforts to subjugate illegal workers exist on and off campus.

That’s why in the end we are left to blame the United States. We claim to be the greatest country and boast about the opportunities available to us. In many cases we don’t even take advantage of them. Then when we see others trying to achieve more, we get envious and want to shut them down. Our ethnocentric society has made us believe we must be the winners. We must be the best.

Unfortunately America is no longer the best. Our economic situation is dire, our ties with other countries are crumbling and our unity as a nation is nonexistent. Another world leader may surge and America will not know how to deal with it.

This raid was not only a symbol of cruelty toward the defenseless but a symbol of our sad struggle to remain in control. I fear for the future of our country but most of all for our inability to cope wih change. Illegal immigrants are here, so it’s time to deal with it rationally.

Raids, walls and hate crimes will not get rid of the “problem.” An effective and understanding working program and citizenship process will ensure this population helps bring America forward and maintain its position at the top. This is America, the melting pot, in the midst of renovation.

Students should be open to discuss this subject sensibly. We cannot ignore or oppress illegal immigrants anymore. They will no longer fade in the background. They are a part of the United States and we need to share the spotlight.

– Bessie King is a junior journalism major and a member of The News staff.

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