Monday, July 27, 2009

Loving Illegal Immigrants

This blog, so far, has been a lot of negative. What I don't like about the church, what makes me angry, and what was wrong about my views up to this point. I want to change that, and have a couple of posts started, but tonight I got an anti-illegal-immigrant e-mail forward which is well documented on Snopes to be entirely false and pointless, as most forwards are.

However, with a passage such as this:

We further demand that there not be any amnesty given to illegals, NO free services, no funding, no payments to and for illegal immigrants. We are fed up with the lack of action about this matter and are tired of paying for services to illegals.
I realized that the 970 people who signed the petition anyway were probably very angry at these illegal immigrants, and a good many of them (judging by certain members of my extended family) probably read the e-mail, muttered something about the damn Mexicans sending our country to hell in a handbasket, and forwarded it on after "signing" it.

This, at first, made me angry. But as I started to write a response, it mostly made me sad. Sad that these 970 largely normal people, most of whom I'm sure lead normal lives and don't normally going around being racists and bigots, would sign their name on such a spiteful, hateful e-mail, and forward it on. Sad that they don't see the humanity of the illegal immigrants they are ready to send back to Mexico. And sad that, since I got the e-mail from someone I knew from a Christian camp, and more generally since this tends to be a position of the religious right, that this is how Jesus was being represented to the illegal immigrants. I did my best to be loving, and not snarky or mean. I have a hard time doing that, especially on the internet, but I tried. So this is the response I wrote.


You probably don't know me, but I just wanted to say something. In short, it's just not that simple. At length:

Before you get upset about social security being taken away by illegals, and "demand that there not be any amnesty given to illegal aliens, NO free services, no funding, no payments to and for illegal immigrants," I just want to remind you that these "illegal immigrants" are people. They are people with lives, families and names, just like you and everyone at your workplace, school, or church. Some of them are grumpy, some of them are friendly, some of them are mean, and a good many of them are the nicest people you'll ever meet. Just like every other group of people that ever existed. I'd advise getting to know an "illegal" or two.

Secondly, you are all (unless there are Native Americans on the list) "illegal immigrants." Some more than others, some more "legal" than others due to whatever laws happened to be in place when your ancestors came to America, but 99% (it really is 99%, I checked) of Americans immigrated here form somewhere - be it the original colonists, or any of the massive immigrations that have taken place over the years.

So, what does that mean? Illegal immigrants, like all people, live here and contribute to our economy - they have jobs, they work hard, they pay into social security, they get involved in their community. One of the reasons we have so many "illegal" immigrants is that our legal immigration system is broken. It often takes years, and is incredibly difficult for immigrants that want to get legal status to do so. For many, it's not worth the effort, especially since it also takes significant financial investment in lawyers, paperwork, and fees, and they're already having a hard enough time making a living as is.

It's easy enough to call foul because someone you know supposedly got their job stolen by a damn Mexican, but it's harder to do so when you realize that damn Mexican actually is a person, and even harder if you know them. Maybe her name is Diane Batista, the mother of a two-year-old whose husband lived in the US for four years, paying medicare, social security, and even getting a tax ID, but was denied a waiver request, and can't reapply for ten years. Or J.R. Gonzalez, who was brought to the US when he was 8 months old, is now 34 with two kids, and found out his mother just never filed the paperwork to make him a legal immigrant. Perhaps his name is Jesus Manuel Cordova, who saved a 9-year-old's life. For every story of someone's job being "stolen", there is a story of the system miserably failing good people.

I'm not claiming that illegal immigrants aren't a problem. Yes, some of them form gangs. Some of them are lazy. Some of them are annoying. However, all of these also apply to black people. And white people. And Native American people. Last time I checked, deporting black people back to Africa, whites to Europe, or Native Americans reservations, or cutting them off from our economy, wasn't a viable way of dealing with them. Making it easier to become legal for those who want to, solving problems that are actually problems (gangs, violence, underhanded business practices), and generally treating them like people, is.

So, to review:

  • Immigrants are people, just like you and me
  • We are all immigrants of some kind
  • Many of them are good, caring people who work hard
  • Many of them are illegal simply because it's difficult and expensive to be "legal"
  • Our immigration system is badly broken
  • There are also bad, grumpy, and annoying immigrants - and also bad, grumpy, and annoying Americans, and coworkers, and schoolmates, and church members.

These are all reasons to not hate "illegal aliens", and maybe think twice before proposing shipping them all back to where they came from. Even if you don't agree with that, consider that this particular e-mail is entirely false.

There is no such law being passed. Illegal aliens, in fact, are not able to collect social security. In fact, illegal aliens leaving would actually be worse for Social Security, because many of them (remember, they have jobs and families like you, I, and your neighbor) pay into it, and can't collect from it, to the tune of $7 billion, according to Social Security officials themselves.

The fact that near 1,000 signatures has been gathered, to protest a law that is not being considered, and a law that would be entirely redundant anyway if it were, indicates another problem: this petition is irrelevant anyway, and highly ineffectual. Yes, there are 1,000 names, but if not one of them checked to see if such a law is even being debated, they mean little.

Please, stop forwarding these pointless, hurtful, and fearmongering e-mails.

And if you don't read any of this, at least consider the words etched into the Statue of Liberty, one of the most recognizable symbols of this country, a beacon of hope and freedom originally intended to be called "Mother of Exiles":

Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!
This is the spirit our country was founded on. A great country, welcoming those that are oppressed, unwanted, and devastated by war, poverty, famine, and economic misfortune in their home countries to find refuge in our shores. This petition, and the spirit that comes with it, is a far cry from the very reason for which this country began.

And next time, please use snopes:

Thank you for your time.

Joel Bradshaw

P.S. If you feel you have been informed, calmed, or at all bettered by this e-mail, by all means find this e-mail as was originally sent to you and hit a reply-all to forward this on to the people that sent it to you. But since this is a calm, practical e-mail that actually looks at the issues at hand, doesn't try to stir up fear and irrational hatred, and is in the wrong target demographic anyway, I don't expect too much. But thanks anyway. If I make one person re-think, just a little, their position regarding the 4% of this country that don't have paperwork saying they are citizens, my work has been worth it.