Robert Master of the Communications Workers of America and co-chair of the New York State Working Families Party...
By Angela Trudell Vasquez
The scapegoating of immigrants must stop.
In times of economic discontent, immigrants have often faced a backlash. But immigrants have been crucial to our country since its founding and often do work that no one else would.
Still, the push against immigrants is gaining strength.
Following on the heels of Arizona's attempt to make police question anyone they suspect is illegal, 25 other states are considering similar bills. These are likely to pass in Georgia, Mississippi, Oklahoma and South Carolina, and they could pass in a dozen or so other states.
What's more, several states -- Arizona, Georgia, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and South Carolina -- are trying to enact laws that would deny citizenship to children of immigrants who came here illegally.
Dismayingly, some members of Congress are taking aim at the Constitution itself. Sen. David Vitter, R-La., and Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., introduced legislation in late January to amend the 14th Amendment to deny the birthright of citizenship. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, from my home state also favors such legislation, I was horrified to discover.
Ours is a nation of immigrants. We should honor our openness and diversity, not curse it.
And we should not be in the business of breaking up families. The drive to inspect everybody's papers who might "look" like an immigrant will end up not only violating a lot of people's civil liberties, it will also end up needlessly separating parents from their children.
Finally, states can't afford to follow Arizona's lead on immigration or they too will be facing costly lawsuits and economic sanctions from people who would otherwise spend time or money in their state.
Growing up, I thought this was the land of opportunity. I thought that if you just worked hard enough, you could achieve anything.
But years ago, when some undocumented English students of mine asked me if I thought they would be able to achieve the American Dream, I replied that with lots of hard work and some luck ... maybe.
Today, I couldn't give them even that much hope. And that's a shame.
We, as a country, cannot turn our backs on who we are.
Angela Trudell Vasquez is a Latina activist and poet currently living in Milwaukee. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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