On Saturday, after a day of student protests across Los Angeles, 500,000 people swarmed the city in protest of pending immigration legislation. I respect the right to a peaceful protest.
But I have a hard time respecting idiots.
In LA they waved their Mexican flags and chanted “Mexico, Mexico.” The last time I checked we are north of the border. I’m not saying that immigrants should renounce their heritage, but how would people feel if all I said all day long was “Canada, Canada?” There is a balance between being true to your homeland and being patriotic for the new land you have embraced. And when you’re protesting the US government it would do you well to show that you have some affinity for the United States.
Many of the homemade signs contained the word “Amnestia“. Since the induction of the first offering of amnesty by the US in 1986 the US has given in and provided several other amnesty programs. Wiping the slate clean for those individuals has given hope to so many more and illegal immigration has gone up dramatically since then. Before the protests you could argue that the influx of illegal immigration was only coincidental to the amnesty acts, after this weekend it was pretty clear.
A lot of the kids that were protesting (especially those who left school on Monday and Tuesday to do so) had no idea why they were protesting. Unable to form complete sentences, most of them were just there to get out of class. On Monday they walked to City Hall and sat on the lawn, channeling protestors of previous generations. Mayor Villaraigosa spoke to them; he was tactful and concise. But every time he mentioned school and education they booed him. On Tuesday they walked across the freeways. I’m so in awe of their idiocy that I have no snide comment. Finally today the police are enforcing truancy laws and taking the kids back to school where the teachers are hoping to have discussions about the protests and maybe get a civics lesson in.
Many posters claimed that “America is Immigration”. Yes, LEGAL immigration.
But my favourite protestor was the man who, on camera, said, “this is just wrong. This is anti-immigration. George Washington was an immigrant.” I was sure my eyes and ears had both deceived me but the local news showed the same clip later that day. Yes, indeed, this man’s argument was that George Washington, the epitome of Americans and the one to whom we look for so much, who was born in Virginia, and who founded the United States was an immigrant to the United States.
(And the legislation is not anti-immigration, it’s just reminding us that illegal immigration is exactly that: illegal.)
Idiots aside, this is a big issue, and there are tough calls. There are parents who came here illegally but whose young children are natural-born American citizens. If the current legislation goes into effect and mass deportations do indeed happen, we would deport the parents and leave babies to fend for themselves. (But then, does anyone really see the government rounding up all the illegals and shipping them off? Does anyone see a mother leaving her baby behind just so that he can stay in the US?)
I know a lot of people who are here illegally. Do I love them as people? Yes. But I do not support the means by which they arrived here, and I shudder to think of the lessons that these children are learning from their parents: it’s okay to break the law. It’s okay to not follow the rules. We’re different. We’re special. The rules are for everyone else. We want to live in America because of these opportunities, so we’re going to do it the easy way (–don’t argue with me on this, many of those stories are way easier than my immigration story! It’s not all about paying a coyote to get you to the desert, a lot of people come in on vacation and never leave.) It’s okay if it’s not the way the US government wants us to do it. And it’s okay that we won’t have papers: we can still get jobs, and if we get sick we can still get help.
The government and the population in general has allowed this to get out of hand. Our economy is reliant on undocumented workers. Many other countries encourage mass emigration; President Fox all but pays the way for Mexicans to cross into the US, poo-pooing our concerns and begging President Bush to grant amnesty and guest worker programs that lead to citizenship since Bush was first elected.
It’s a real problem. I’m sure that living in a country that historically decimates it’s population and suppresses the people is a horrible life. I would want to leave, too. But if you respect America as a place of hope, then please respect its laws and go through the appropriate channels. And if you are the consummate patriot who chants “Mexico, Mexico,” then maybe you should use your activism to improve the land you really love.
As someone who painfully jumped through every hoop required on the long road to Legal Permanent Residency, I am personally offended by every illegal immigrant in the country. All 10 million of you.