My post on the municipal identification card issue elicited some comments from a few readers about how “unhelpful” my comments were to the cause for immigration reform. One reader actually accused me of being anti-immigrant! At least two readers swore off ever reading my blog again. Others focused on the immigration angle of the municipal identification movement. Today, I would like to address why I can be for municipal identification cards and immigration reform and still point out the subterfuge of what transpired earlier this week at city council.
Since the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, where Mexico gave up a significant part of its sovereignty to the U.S., a second class of human being was created. I purposely used the words “human being” because this issue transcends immigration status and thus citizen is inappropriate. From that moment on, a second-class citizen status was created and continues to be exacerbated today because of the immigration debate at the local and national stages. As such, some supporters of numerous immigration status initiatives have veiled their initiatives in palatable reforms. The problem then, as today, is that there are Mexicans in the United States that some value while others do not want anything to do with them. It is not a race thing per se; it is more of an educational and economic thing although skin color sometimes plays a part in the debate.
Because of this dichotomy, many Mexicans were forced into the shadows carving out a life and responding to the political whims of the power structures in place. When the Mexicans were needed for agriculture or to fill a labor void, most communities across the U.S. actively recruited them into their midst. Once the economy tanked, the Mexicans, along with immigrants (being Mexican does not necessarily make one an immigrant) were encouraged to leave the communities they helped build. Sometimes they were forcefully ejected from their homes. The only constant was that many Mexicans were a distinct and a separate class of people from those driving the U.S. public policy agendas.
The problem of using incomplete data or veiled public policy agenda items is that it only encourages in keeping immigrants hidden in the shadows. This is done because no one wants to deal directly with the necessity of immigrant labor in the US. The Democrats are hampered by the special interests of labor movements to directly address the issue of immigration. The Republicans, for their part, are driven by a small but vocal core xenophobic membership that stifles any meaningful discussion about the immigration problem. The common thread, that no one wants to admit, is that there exists a second-class of human in the US, an economic slave, if you will. This is because the reality is that the immigration issue is centered on economic necessities. As such, keeping the immigrants in the shadows makes them a quasi-slave to the politics of the nation because they are needed for economic purposes.
The United States is the largest economy in the world. The inconvenient truth the immigration debate often glosses over is that immigrants have played a significant and integral part by keeping wages and prices low. This has made the U.S. the economy that it is today.
Although Mexicans and immigrants are routinely accused of abusing the system, of keeping wages down and of criminality the fact remains that it is their labor that helped the U.S. win World War II, both in the trenches and in the homeland. It is this labor that set the infrastructure that propelled the United States ahead of war-torn Europe into the economic powerhouse it is today. It is this same labor that continues to make the U.S. the economic giant it continues to be.
Yet, no public official wants to have this discussion.
Instead, the discussion centers on the number of unauthorized immigrants in the country, or the security of the nation and sometimes on the low wages they represent. Not included in the discussion are the benefits the country derives from the people living in the shadows.
Because of the controversy and the resistance from the politicians who are unwilling to take a public position, many immigrant advocates have decided that the best way to help them is to work behind the scenes and advance reform through subterfuge and distracting voters through other community needs.
The municipal identification issue is clear proof of this.
The proponents focused on the need for identification cards for marginalized members of society carefully avoiding the “immigration” stigma. I understand why they did this. It is because to admit the municipal identification movement is to help the immigrant population would bog down the process to the point that it would be untenable.
This is where those that argued that yesterday’s blog was not constructive to our common goal of helping the unauthorized immigrants in our midst are wrong, in my opinion. I can see and understand that argument but I see the subterfuge of the 40,000 as further eroding the status of the undocumented as equal human beings because the initiative, designed to help them, doesn’t even name them by name. This pushes them further into the shadows because to mention them would only derail the movement.
By not admitting on the onset that the initiative is for helping the immigrant population basically keeps them in the background, hidden from the politicians and absent from the debate. Pretending that they are not part of the discussion pushes them further into the shadows because to include them would force the politicians to have an honest debate about their existence in society.
Excluding anyone from the social debate minimizes them and pushes them further into the shadows, a darkness made up of those not held in equal standing with the rest of us.
This is wrong and has been wrong from the day that Mexicans have been marginalized because they did not fit the mold those around them wanted them to fit.
Today, Latinos, Hispanics or Mexicans, however anyone wishes to be identified is the fastest growing minority in the politics of the United States. Those of us that can – need to stop enabling the further stigmatization of those living in the shadows for political expediency.
As Mexicans, or Latinos or whatever we call ourselves we owe it to them to stand up and be heard. They live in the shadows and thus our voices are the only ones that can speak for them.
The forty-thousand number is important because it is likely that the majority of that number includes unauthorized immigrants in El Paso. Even though one of the proponents was quoted in the paper as stating that the municipal identification movement has nothing to do with immigration, the fact is that it does because there are not 40,000 citizens in El Paso without access to identification. There are, however, many unauthorized immigrants that would benefit tremendously from the initiative yet no one wants to give them a voice by acknowledging their existence. This diminishes their humanity in terms of equality in society.
I wholeheartedly support and encourage the City of El Paso embracing and issuing municipal identification cards to its residents. Yes, I understand that it would cost taxpayers money in implementing the system and to some that makes me a hypocrite because I consistently decry excessive taxes in the city.
However, just like the money I pay and have paid to process my immigration processes, the money pays for the bureaucracy that enables me to be a resident of the United States. Likewise, a properly implemented municipal identification system would pay for itself as well, by those who benefit from it.
More important for me is that honesty must be central to the movement. The 40 thousand estimated potential users is likely made up of immigrants that would benefit in many ways from the initiative. We need to acknowledge them in order to force a serious discussion about our neighbors living in the shadows unable to partake of society equally and with dignity.