The Republicans continue to show themselves as unwilling to deal with immigration reform. The immigration problem has become increasingly urgent over the past few years, considering the thirteen million undocumented workers in this country.
Republican states are making it progressively difficult for people without valid documentation to rent apartments, sign contracts, drive vehicles, and most important, find work. Businesses are increasingly concerned that federal immigration officials will impose heavy penalties on them if they are found to employ undocumented workers. To this end, they employ E-Verify, a system that allows businesses to determine an individuals eligibility to work in the United States.
Republican philosophy lends itself to the idea that if they make it difficult enough for undocumented immigrants to live in the United States, these people will leave and return to their home countries. What these conservatives have rhetorically proposed is a system that makes it an unbearable burden to continue to live in the country. The human suffering that this will impose on immigrants is difficult to imagine without walking in their shoes.
As an immigrant, I lived for a several years without the required papers, that is, either a visa, or a resident card. I had, however, registered my intent to file papers. I was fortunate enough to live with someone and thus had no need to try and rent an apartment. I was unable to drive, attend university, or find work of any sort. The net result is that as a computer specialist, my skills were, and remain, hopelessly out of date.
For someone who relies on a steady income to support a family, or even just themselves, being without valid paperwork is a burden and an obstacle that is almost insurmountable. You live your life in fear, of neighbors reporting you, of having some contact with police or immigration officials, of becoming ill, since you cannot afford insurance. Your entire life is lived in the shadows, afraid, doing piece work for which you may or may not be paid.
In some states, your children are unable to attend school. You cannot send your children to daycare for lack of resources, to kindergarten because of the cost. If you are lucky enough to find work, it will be cleaning up after the people around you, their filth is your livelihood. You are the unseen, the disposable people, the trash of society, on the cusp of being torn from your community, your friends if you have any and being dumped in a society of which you may know nothing.
The children of the undocumented are especially hard hit. When they are able to attend schools, their friends can go on to college or university, end up in well paid jobs, while you have to eke out your existence packed in a hovel, under the radar, away from the supercilious eyes of the society in which you live.
A truly civilised nation would understand the problems that beset the undocumented, and make accommodations for them, out of a sense of decency, of our common humanity, if nothing else. Far too many conservatives hide behind the law, using the rather disingenuous argument that the undocumented are breaking the law.
American residents and citizens break the law every day in ways that are far more harmful to society than the mere existence of the undocumented. On the roads, people routinely exceed the speed limit, sometimes by more than double. Their actions can and do lead to death for some and disabilities for others. This is a serious offense, existence is not.
For a purportedly Christian nation, the attitude of far too many Christians is anything but Christlike. Their lack of charity towards their fellow humans is an indictment of their inhumanity.
Denying a person the right to work is one of the cruelest punishments one can mete out to another human being. To deny them the right to earn enough to pay for the basic necessities of life is a travesty of justice matched by few other acts of depravity. It denies them the ability to pay for a dwelling of some sort, to pay for food and medical services if needs be, for clothes, shoes, transport, or a watch.
To add insult to injury, conservatives insist that in the unlikely event that they do allow some immigrants to stay in the country, they demand that the immigrant learn English and pay back taxes. In the first case, precisely how is a foreign national, who has never spoken English supposed to find the means, or the time to learn English? How are they to pay for the transport to get to a facility that offers English? Conservatives are not interested in these arguments. For them it is just another obstacle that they are placing in another humans life, which is their entire intent.
The idea that an undocumented worker should pay taxes is another ridiculous idea. Even if they were able to find and hold work while in the country, they would not earn enough to pay tax. Perhaps they might owe Social Security taxes, but since they are unlikely to ever be able to claim from social Security, why should they pay into the system.
Another suggestion is that they pay a fine to be able to apply for a legal status. The figure $5000 is often bandied about. For someone who is lucky to earn minimum wage, precisely how are they going to be able to save enough to pay that amount of money. Again, it places an unbelievable obstacle in the way of their being able to attain legal status.
During President Obama’s first term, a majority in both the House and the Senate backed the DREAM act, which gave immigrants a path to citizenship for people brought to the United States as children. Republicans, predictably and reprehensibly filibustered the bill. Despite their rhetoric in favor of “family values”, they ensured that millions of families will continue to live in poverty and deprivation.
A young woman who moved from Mexico and grew up in the United States, finished in the top five in her class at school, and managed to secure a scholarship to Arizona State University, was stripped of her scholarship after that state passed a law banning undocumented children from receiving educational benefits. Erika Andiola is a plaintiff in a lawsuit that is part of the campaign to combat the excessive abuse of the filibuster in the Senate.
The argument proposed by her attorneys claims that the DREAM act would have granted her educational protection. A small, vocal group of senators increasingly uses the filibuster to stop any legislation from passing through the Senate. While the Senate was designed as a slow, deliberative body, Republicans have increasingly stopped all legislation from passing, regardless of its merits, which gives this young woman’s suit significant merit.
The idea that lawmakers will make life so untenable for undocumented workers here in the United States that they will be forced to move back to their country of birth is the kind of reasoning used by the apartheid regime in South Africa. They used any legislation they could to make life unbearable for Africans, and the same is happening here.
This nation needs to propose comprehensive immigration reform that faces the challenge of millions of people who need work, a place to live and to send their children to school. They need legalisation, whether it is just a work visa of some description, the ability to rent, to drive and to live without fear of deportation. We need to see immigrants as people to be respected, to welcome them into our communities and acknowledge the tedious, dangerous work that they do. Anything else is unChristian, and immoral.
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