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Why is Hope for CIR Fading? A Latina Writer Says it's About Race. By Roger Algase

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Why are the hopes for real immigration reform that we all had earlier this year turning into disappointment, despite the overwhelming support for legalizing 11 immigrants across the political spectrum, and by influential segments of both political parties? A Chicago-based poet and writer. Erika Sanchez, who impresses me as a "Wise Latina", goes the heart of the problem, even if one does not necessarily agree with her views in toto, especially her blaming NAFTA for all of Mexico's poverty.

Her August 8 column, written when Congress had just begun its recess, is called The Missing Discourse in Immigration Reform.

Here is the link: www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/18048-the-missing-discourse-in-immigration-reform?tmpl=component&print=1

Sanchez begins by reminding us that attempts to subvert the real purpose of CIR in bringing 11 million people out of the shadows did not begin in the House, but in the Senate.

She describes some of the major problems with S. 744 as follows:

"The highly anticipated bill is already a monumental disappointment to many. Only those who were physically present in the United States before December 11, 2011, and have not left the country since are eligible, and people in provisional legal status could work and travel in the United States but would not be eligible for most federal benefits, including health care and welfare. Because of those restrictions, many will be unable to apply for a green card, and those who cam apply will have an incredibly long path to citizenship of 13 years or more. Not only is the wait absurdly long, the bill also burdens applicants with high fines and fees. If you're eligible and can afford it, you will still have to wait well over a decade and be considered a second class citizen."


She then turns to the border security features of the Senate bill:

"Why invest billions of dollars in border security when the number of border apprehensions has plummeted in recent years? ...If politicians are so terrified of hordes of immigrants crossing the border, why not consider what compels people to leave the only home they've ever known to toil in a country that essentially hates them? Instead of worrying about fences and pumping billions of dolars into the Great Wall of Mexico, why not reconsider the economic policies that have ruined the lives of our Southern neighbors?"


She also asks:

"Bringing undocumented workers out of the shadows and into the legal economy would result in higher productivity and investment. So why is there so much fear surrounding the prospect of permitting hardworking people to become citizens?"

Her answer is:

"The reason is fear - a deep seated and enduring fear of Otherness...

But as historian Steven Potti reminds us, the United States has a long legacy of distrusting immigrants. 'Despite immigrants' efforts to correct such lies, Congressman King's name-calling strikes a deep chord in the contemporary United States,' Pitti writes. 'Declarations similar to those made by the Iowa Congressman have been echoed again and again by policy makers over the last century.'"

Then she arrives at her main point, which some readers who would like to ignore the long standing, and still powerful, connection between race and immigration law in America may find infuriating, but which cannot be overlooked if there is to be any serious discussion about reform. The following emphasis is added:

"What's missing from the discourse is an honest, public, front-and center examination of the roots of this issue. As the racial demographics in this country change drastically, powerful white men become more and more terrified to lose their power.The backlash against people of color escalates."

Sanchez also draws a connection between bigotry against immigrants and other forms of discrimination:

"These are the same men who are afraid of the increasing influence of women and pass legislation to control their bodies."

One might also add that many of the same politician who are trying to derail immigration reform are also promoting hatred of gays and Muslims, and are trying to take away the right to vote from African-Americans as well as Latinos.

Until the issue of deep seated prejudice against racial and other minorities is brought out into the open and confronted head on, the outlook for real immigration reform will remain cloudy at best.

Again, one does not have to agree with everything that Erika Sanchez says in order to commend her for raising the central issue of racial bigotry in the immigration reform discussion. CIR supporters owe her a great debt of gratitude. The cause of immigration reform, and America itself, need more outspoken and courageous voices like hers.




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Updated 09-12-2013 at 10:50 PM by ImmigrationLawBlogs

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