A day without an immigrant is like a day without??? That seems to be the question that today’s activities is designed to raise, if not answer. What the answer is will probably take a great deal of time and level-headed action to determine. The question, though, is whether we are capable of dealing with the subject of immigration in a reasoned, dispassionate way–to accurately address the benefits and challenges of millions of people coming to this state and country for pretty much the same reasons our parents and grandparents came here—for the promise of a better life, filled with opportunity and success if we work hard and play by the rules. Immigrants today want the same things our immigrant ancestors wanted— a better life, an escape from hardship, human rights abuses and poverty. Those were among the primary motivators for most of our families—and still are today.
But the contrary argument goes, we cannot absorb all these people; they are violating our laws by coming without proper documentation and processing. They are inundating our schools with their children, our hospitals with their uncovered health care needs, crowding our highways and taking jobs from our own people. Of course, the data to back up these claims is spotty at best, but in an emotionally-based debate, it doesn’t much matter.
This is not an issue that easily fits into a political category, although it is certainly politically charged. People on all sides of the political spectrum vary in their views and solutions to the issue. The debate ranges from open the borders and let in all who want to enter, to close the borders, put up a wall (similar to the Great Wall of China, perhaps?) make their presence here a felony and send them back from whence they came.
Of course, there is a more rational approach and a compromise to this issue which will hopefully prevail in the halls of Congress–where it must be resolved and in a satisfactory manner. Congress must recognize that we rely heavily on the hard work and low-wages these workers are willing to endure; that much of our economy is dependent upon their labor; that our employers knowingly hire people who are not legally documented and we as consumers, buy the products made from this cheap and “illegal” work force.
This debate needs to be undertaken more rationally, compassionately and honestly if we are going to bring about a more effective and sound immigration policy in this country. As long as America continues to shine as a beacon of hope and opportunity, people will come. As long as there is work to enable them to provide a better life for their families, people will come. As long as the Statue of Liberty stands and offers a place for the tired, the poor and the “huddled masses yearning to breathe free”,we must find a solution which will not forsake the promise of opportunity America offered to our ancestors and which we, as the beneficiaries, enjoy today.And after all, isn’t the promise of America what has distinguished us from all other countries and made us the most successful and prosperous country in the world?
Whatever the result, we must remember that this nation was built and has prospered because of the hard-work of its immigrants—The fact is that the people who built our country to what it is today were our very own immigrant grandparents. We must keep that in mind as we consider the demonstrations and discussions today. Hopefully this Day Without an Immigrant will lead to thoughtful and effective solutions to a complex and emotional issue that affects all of us.