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The immigration demonstrations or “protests” of the past few days are a truly historic phenomenon. They bring us back to the foundational ideals that made this country what it is today: freedom, access, opportunity, work, self-improvement, desire for a better future for one’s children.

I recognize the United States’ legitimate need to better police its borders and to assure as best we can that the American people remain secure. But I am not in favor of building a 700 mile between the United States and Mexico. I recognize that among some 11.6 million immigrants, some are not “pulling their weight,” some are “costing American taxpayers,” some are unwilling to work, and some may be involved in periodic criminal activity. So we need to develop new laws and immigration procedures that allow us to identify those that do not really want to be Americans in the best sense of that term. But I do not favor making illegal immigrant status, ipso facto, a felony, nor do I favor prosecuting those who assist illegal immigrants with humanitarian aid.

I believe America’s shores should remain as open to freedom-loving and freedom-seeking people as, in a day of terrorism, we can make them to be. I do not believe that immigrants always “drain our economy” or that they are always “threats to the American way of life.” Perhaps a few may be, but the flip side of these observations is that most immigrants bring talent, dreams, and a work ethic that often puts the American work ethic to shame. Rather they enrich the American culture and economy with their presence and contributions.

So I am a bit perplexed by the strong voices urging Congress to “deport them”; “send them all back where they came from.” This is more about nativism, bigotry, and fear than it is about concern for American ideals.

I am struck by the beauty of American citizens and “illegals” marching together, asking for legal mechanisms to provide immigrants with a path to a better life. I salute them.

I also think present-day immigrants, like the millions who have come before them, including my forbears from the British Isles, should learn American values and governmental structures, should learn English, and should seek to assimilate in American society even as they maintain the best of their own cultural heritage.

Immigrants and immigration are not the issue. Evil moral choices, criminal behavior, bigotry, and hatred are the issues. We must learn how to discern and how to identify those who choose the evil path, rather than assume anyone different from ourselves must be “bad people.”


© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2006

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