Sunday, April 23, 2006

How the Hell Did We Get Here?

It happened during an argument with a friend of mine. He is an immigrant from Armenia who, after too many years in school, finally got his Green Card. The argument was about the immigration protests taking place around the country right now. This question came to me when I realized how ludicrous it was that I was arguing for the protestors, while my friend was arguing against them.

His passion, he explained to me, stemmed from the fact that he had to work so hard and so long for his Green Card. He did not think these people should just expect to get their citizenship handed to them. He took special issue with the common protest sign, “We Are America.”

He scoffed and moaned for a while, and I listened closely, trying to see his point. Yes, I see the irony: illegal immigrants are rallying for rights guaranteed in the constitution of a government that refuses to recognize them as citizens. The question is, why don’t human rights apply to everyone, regardless of their citizenship? I thought it did. No person, in a country that trumpets the motto “Give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses” should be allowed to treat anyone like an alien. The conditions that illegal immigrants are forced into have sustained our economy, but something needs to change.

There are many issues here. Issue 1: Should immigrants be allowed into our country at all? Should we kick any illegal immigrants out of the country (or put them in jail on a newly upgraded felony charge) and build a wall to keep any new immigrants away? Not only is this rash, it is implausible. There will never be a sure fire method for keeping people out of our country (a country that was, by the way, BUILT on immigration).

Issue 2: Should illegal immigrants be forced, due to their illegal status, to work under inhuman, unsanitary conditions? This is how the country has operated this way for awhile now. There are many illegal immigrants who find a place in this country that does not fall under this category. But many illegal immigrants are forced to stay quiet about their status, quiet about themselves and are forced into jobs with conditions no American citizen would ever stand for. American citizens, however, can stand up for themselves. They have ground to stand on. But because of their illegal status, immigrants are not protected under the American constitution.

Issue 3: How can we find a happy medium? There is just no easy answer here. No one in America should be forced to work under these conditions. There is obviously something wrong when someone who played the system, getting degree after degree, is complaining about people who are playing the system in their own way. The illegal immigrants were forced into these protests. The threat to their sustained way of life made them angry, then made them realize there might be something wrong with their sustained way of life. If those aren’t very American actions and discoveries, there’s something wrong with our view of America.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Your last three sentences are the crux of my frustration with this issue. When did wee forget what it means to be Americans? What the hell have we been fighting for for 250 years?

Like you, I have trouble distinguishing the plight of Americans from the plight of non-Americans - after all, their all people.