After a stream of virulent comments posted to Unfair Park in response to items I've written on immigration issues, I thought I'd respond and clarify a few things. First, so you know what I'm talking about, here's a sampling, the first comment posted by my favorite Unfair Park screen name, Ayn Rand: "Megan Feldman...busy aiding criminals once again." And: "Perhaps the Mexican Consulate can advise me on how to get my driveway unblocked by illegals in overcrowded houses who party in the streets, have open bonfires in the front yards, blare loud music, shoot guns into the air, let their children run wild at all hours of the night and dump all their empties in my yard."
It's interesting that on most every issue, people expect reporters to write about the people on each side of a controversy, but not when it comes to immigration. There's always disagreement about how "objective" or "fair" coverage of any issue is, and which side seems to be given more attention. But some seem to think that with immigration, only one side should be presented. To the people who wrote the posts above, the stories of immigrants don't even deserve to be told because "they're criminals."
Well, here's the thing.
It's kind of hard to write about immigration if you don't write about immigrants. And as journalists, we write about people in the community -- what they're doing, what challenges they face, what kind of controversy they might be stoking -- and, news flash, lots of people in the community happen to be immigrants, legal or illegal. So we write about the efforts to crack down on illegal immigration and the problems foisted onto local governments by the influx of poor immigrants, and we also write about the vital labor immigrants provide our economy and about the immigrants themselves.
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Ayn Rand and friends seem to think that by virtue of entering the country without documents -- which, by the, way is a civil violation, not a criminal one -- these people have checked their status as human beings at the border and become subhuman evildoers. After writing about a local chapter of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps and their visits to the Garland Day Labor Center, I received an e-mail saying that the Minutemen were disappointed "because you told the 'heart wrenching' sympathy-inducing stories of illegal immigrants. Many of our volunteers have used up all their supply of sympathy for them long ago.'"
This refusal to view immigrants as people with stories that count just as much as anyone else's isn't just offensive, it's dangerous. And such a facile, simplistic view of the complex immigration dynamic offers no solutions. There are, of course, negative impacts from immigration and problems presented that must be resolved, but anyone who ignores immigrants' human, cultural and economic contributions to the U.S. and to Texas is too clouded by hate and fear to acknowledge the facts or think critically.
No doubt someone is reading this and thinking, "I don't have a problem with immigrants, just the illegal ones!" Well, as I've explained before, there is no legal entrance system for the low-skilled workers who, economists agree, provide vital labor as our labor force ages and more Americans seek higher education and professional jobs. If, as Ayn Rand and others suggest, all of the undocumented workers now in the construction, landscaping, agriculture and hospitality industries had applied for citizenship (not that most would have qualified, since it requires having a citizen relative or professional sponsor) and waited the 10-15 years it often takes to get it, we would likely have a serious economic problem. This has nothing to do with "condoning" law-breaking, but everything to do with recognizing that we have an immigration system that doesn't work.
But, absolutely, keep the comments coming. No need for the fun to stop now. --Megan Feldman