(Map Above, Mexico and U.S. circa 1786)
What is it about the southern border of the United States that makes some people want to erect very tall fences — both physically and philosophically and legally? Why is it that the children and grandchildren and great grandchildren of mostly European immigrants think that it’s ok to enact laws that require other immigrants — those from South of the Border — to carry papers at all times to prove they’re here legally? While Arizona cracks down on people who might be illegal immigrants — how do they know? is it brown eyes? will I have to prove my citizenship next time I’m in Phoenix? I doubt it! —- folks who live along the northern border don’t seem nearly as kerfluffled by the occasional Canadian incursion. Eh?
Our proud Nation of Immigrants had its infrastructure built by people who came here by various means — some legally, some illegally, some against their will in the holds of slave ships. Our immigrant ancestors took up residence in a country whose original owners — the Native Americans — didn’t get much say in the whole deal. When they protested, the response of the invaders was one of death and destruction of possessions, land and culture. All in the name of building a new civilization.
Ironically, in spite of the hegemony of England and France in our imagination of this nation’s colonial heritage, in fact, a vast part of America owes its discovery and development to Hispanic conquerors and settlers who were on the North American continent long before the Brits took over New England. We seem to have some amnesia about the fact that California and the great American southwest — including Arizona — were part of Mexico until the middle of the 19th Century. So, who are the immigrants, really?
Arizona’s law authorizing police to stop anyone whom they suspect might be an illegal immigrant opens the door to the worst kind of discrimination based on someone’s skin color and general appearance. Or, as one enlightened Arizona resident told the New York Times, “You are going to look different if you are an alien, and cops know.” Indeed.
Our national values are all out of whack. A nation founded on the premise of freedom and equality for all seems increasingly unable to find generous, enlightened, charitable responses to its many challenges. In place of the welcoming hand of hospitality we extend handcuffs. Instead of rational solutions to the challenges of immigration status among families whose members have varying forms of documentation, the “family values” posse simply rounds-up and sends-back those who can’t produce the right papers — children, fathers, mothers, siblings, no matter. No papers? Get out. Especially you, the ones that look different…. alien!
On second thought, I might get some blue-eyed contact lenses for my next trip to Scottsdale. Just in case.