By Alex Emslie
What if a person living in America couldn’t be found guilty of a crime because of where they were born, the language they speak or the color of their skin? It would change every national issue discussed in Congress. It would change the way presidential campaigns are run. It would change the way we feel about our neighbors, the police and the federal government. No human being would be illegal.
TV newsmen attempting edginess would claim Utopian fantasy. The Office of Immigration Statistics, a division of the Office of Homeland Security, estimates the number of undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. is about 11.5 million. The pundits claim our economy can’t possibly support these people — even though it does, and they contribute to it.
Is it a rigid sense of justice that causes us to label some people as a lower class, less deserving of the freedom and wealth available in this country? They broke the law when they crossed an imaginary line where food and liberty may be found, a law that doesn’t apply to them because they are not citizens of our wonderful experiment.
Eugenics and Manifest Destiny are terms generally reserved for historians, but this is the the 21st century. Long ago we were supposed to have ascended to a more enlightened plane, where one ethnicity is not more entitled than another. The argument that being born in America justifies all the blessings our country offers while simultaneously denying these benefits to other nationalities is a shocking return to 18th century ideals.
George W. Bush tried to install a guest worker, or modern indentured servitude policy in the U.S. It died in Congress, but not because it would have allowed for untenable manipulation of a poor and uneducated labor workforce. No, comprehensive immigration reform under the Bush administration failed because some conservatives declared it would grant amnesty to immigrant law breakers, and that travesty of justice could not be endured.
Barack Obama, too, has promised immigration reform, though it’s not the first thing on his mind at the moment. Aside from ceasing to send families to the T. Don Hutto Residential Center, one of the most inhumane detention centers this country has ever sullied itself to open, the Obama administration has largely continued the failed immigration policies of its predecessor. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is still a draconian agency to be feared. Deputized local police departments, with the federal government’s blessing, mistreat detainees who they believe to be illegal with barefaced racism. A culture of hatred and elitism is encouraged in America.
In fact, bigotry has become so ingrained in our national psyche, it’s become hard to imagine any other mindset that could possibly drive the way we treat one another.
Locally, Gavin Newsom championed San Francisco as a sanctuary city, where city employees, such as police officers, are prohibited to enquire about a person’s immigration status.
Bad press threatened Newsom’s state gubernatorial aspirations in 2008. Now he insists reverting to the city’s original sanctuary policies would threaten the whole idea. Apparently Newsom believes San Francisco should be a sanctuary in name only, shaking the hands of immigrant voters with one hand while gesturing to ICE with the other.
But what if no human being was illegal, federally or locally? Leaders would have to look out for the interests of all people in this country instead of the interests of only one elite culture. Crimes could be reported and witnesses could testify without fear of ICE — America’s modern-day secret police. Neighbors would trust each other again.
National domestic issues like health care and education would no longer carry the offensive asterisk of the 11 million or so living here who the government doesn’t plan to include. Immigrant workers could make fair living wages and pay taxes instead of having to survive on slave wages that circumvent civic responsibility.
This utopian idea might be very far away, but it begins with a simple shift in mindset. We must realize the only thing that separates us are imaginary lines and racism. We are all documented citizens of the world and no human being can ever be illegal.