LatinaLista — Do “illegal” immigrants scare you?
Demonstrator Inocencio de Jesus, M, walks through the Barrio Logan area during an immigration march on May 1, 2007 at Chican Park in San Diego, California. Demonstators from around the United States held protest rallies in an effort to send a message to congress to act on immigration reform. (Photo by Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images)
Well, if they don’t, you’re one of the lucky ones who hasn’t bought into the extremists’ hype that they’re all dangerous lawbreakers.
It’s been a successful strategy, but truth be told there is a giant sting operation being perpetuated against undocumented immigrants that forces the criminal label on them without any chance to be free of it.
First off, as tiring as it is to repeat this: entering the country is a misdemeanor, not the kind of crime that puts a person on the FBI’s Most Wanted List.
In other words, the vast majority of undocumented aliens are as law-abiding as they can be, but in an effort to force them out of the country, state and federal actions against them have succeeded in doing nothing more than criminalizing a group who would like to follow the laws but have become the perfect scapegoat for public officials and pundits who build their power base feeding off the fears of people.
For example, a Denver Post editorial outlines how an immigration forum organized this week by Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck was nothing more than a platform for to continue this campaign “To Fear the Illegal.”
On the one hand, Buck has repeatedly acknowledged publicly that only a small fraction of illegal immigrants commit crimes â€” beyond their unauthorized entry into this country. On the other, he attempted to whip up a crowd of 600 that gathered at an auditorium Tuesday night by flashing a slide show of photos of Hispanic men and the crimes they’ve committed. It was accompanied by an “ominous soundtrack,” according to a Rocky Mountain News story.
Coupled with a Weld County Sheriff’s Color Guard presentation and a recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance, the mood was cast for an us-versus-them event.
It’s hard to view it any other way.
However, there’s some good news on the horizon.
There are some states and cities who are realizing that it’s much better to have a sizeable portion of your community in compliance with U.S. laws, a.k.a. know who they are, than not.
It started in New Haven, Connecticut this summer when the city issued what they call a Elm City Resident Card.
More than 3,000 Elm City Resident Cards have been issued since the programâ€™s July 24th launch. The first of its kind in the nation, the Elm City Resident Cards allows residents access to basic City services such as: the public library, the Cityâ€™s parks, the public transfer station, recreational sites and more. The Elm City Resident Card also includes a Parcxmart feature that allows the card to be used to pay for parking meters Downtown or as a debit card at participating New Haven merchants.
In order to qualify for a card, residents must show valid government issued photo identification (from the United States or other nations) including a passport, driverâ€™s license, consular identification and other official identification documents. Applicants must also demonstrate residency in the City by bringing in two utility bills, a pay stub, tax statements, rental/purchase agreements, original documents from health/social service agencies or other approved documents.
And today comes word that the state of New York also sees the benefit of decriminalizing the undocumented when it can be done.
The state of New York will allow undocumented immigrants who have a valid foreign passport to get their driver’s licenses.
The move to give this kind of legal recognition to undocumented immigrants is for a very basic reason that flies in the face of extremists’ arguments: “to enhance security, safer streets and a reduction in insurance premiums for all New York drivers.”
David Swarts, New York’s Motor Vehicles Commissioner, said that because of this measure New York residents are anticipated to save $120 million a year in insurance premiums.
“They no longer need to hide and pretend they are not here,” said Gov. Spitzer. “We will not become part of what is propagated on the federal level that if we don’t admit they are here then we can somehow not provide services. That is bad policy.”
But more importantly, it’s not a solution to the bigger issue either.
Two down, a nation to go.