[Grayson] Don't Bash Immigrants | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

[Grayson] Don't Bash Immigrants

Some Americans believe that this country has grown out of its oppressive past and into a unified nation. For some, racism no longer exists, and everybody has their fair shot at living the "American Dream". Many people seem to believe that everyone has equal opportunities in this country.

Unfortunately, those who share such ideas are overlooking reality and creating a major roadblock for people who are trying to make real progress. The spreading of those ideas downplays the truth—people are still oppressed, mistreated and exploited in the United States.

I believe history is coming back to haunt this nation. After reading Matt Saldaña's cover story, "Mal Tiempo, Buenas Caras (Bad Times, Good Faces)," (July 19-25) I realized that not much has changed in the United States.

Latino immigrants come into this country seeking equal opportunities. They come here with big dreams and an idea for a better, more prosperous life. Instead, many of them are never shown the legal way to integrate into society. Some Americans argue that "they are taking away our jobs." Some even argue that "immigrants receive benefits and assistance that U.S. citizens have trouble getting."

To some, these opinions may be valid. For me, they are lame excuses to oppress a group of people. When taken into serious consideration, those assumptions are false. Latino immigrants struggle to receive government assistance, and illegal immigrants are never afforded American benefits. As we stumble over reasons that immigrants make this country "worse", Latino immigrants work deplorable jobs for little money.

The immigration debate has proved very complicated. The first mistake is assuming that all Latino immigrants are "illegal" and should be deported. Another mistake is the desire to punish immigrants for being in the country illegally. Many people argue that they should be punished, deported or charged major fines.

The real problem is that U.S. businesses are employing illegal immigrants. U.S. business owners were elated to see a surplus of immigration on the Gulf Coast following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. According to Saldaña's article, 100,000 Latino immigrants found work on the Gulf Coast during that time.

How many U.S. citizens stepped in to take the high road, by leading these innocent people to legally become United States citizens or to simply obtain a legal documentation to work in this country? Obviously, there were more people leading them to unsafe job sites to receive poor wages (far below the minimum paid to American workers).

Now that the hard labor is done, and the business owners are back on their feet, we want the people who revitalized the area to be deported. All of a sudden, they are the problem because they can't speak fluent English and because they never obtained "legal" status in this country. To further complicate things, the failed Senate immigration bill proposed that illegal immigrants pay the United States government up to $10,000, be deported to their native countries, and then wait seven to 13 years to be considered for U.S. citizenship. I believe that this is the most unrealistic thing that I have ever heard. We shouldn't punish people for wanting a better life. However, we should punish people for taking advantage of vulnerable immigrants who are unfamiliar with our laws.

The U.S. government does little to stop illegal immigration because this country reaps the benefits of immigrant labor. When we no longer need their services, we mistreat them and proclaim that they are doing so much harm to our society. I believe that the U.S. is now indebted to the Latino immigrant workers (whether they be legal or illegal) who helped to rebuild the Gulf Coast. I can't recall people trying to pass "amnesty" bills when immigrant workers were rebuilding our Gulf Coast, drinking contaminated water and accepting our low wages.

Ultimately, illegal immigrants are not to blame for certain problems, especially unemployment among American citizens.

If businesses were held accountable for employing illegal immigrants, they would find it difficult to find work in the United States. This would mean that fewer immigrants would flee their home countries—where, for many, it is also difficult to find work.

People should be more concerned with the well-being of our fellow human beings, rather than their immigration status. America prides itself on being the land of opportunities. However, when people come in search of those opportunities, we want to kick them out. As Americans, we always have to find someone to blame for our shortcomings or misfortunes. In the case of illegal immigration, Latino immigrants are being blamed for problems that we would face even if they weren't here (such as unemployment and crime).

Illegal Latino immigrants are not making this country worse. If anything, they are showing us that we have a lot of progress to make when it comes to human rights.

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