Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Immigration--the Human Side

photo by michael fleshman/ flickr
 It was Halloween night. We were visiting relatives on the Oregon coast.  There weren’t many trick o' treaters that came ringing the doorbell. But we opened the door and there stood three very scary grinning children. They were dressed up as a skeleton, Spiderman and another character I could not identify. Behind them stood their parents proud and dressed-up themselves. They were Hispanic and they were friends of my relatives. Not only did we put assorted goodies in their sacks but we also invited them in.

It must have been ten years ago that they left Mexico and their families and found themselves on the Oregon Coast.  It must have been scary to leave behind all that was familiar and arrive with just a few suitcases, wondering if they could find work. The young man had finished a degree in computer programming in Mexico. Very soon he found a job on a construction crew. His wife worked as a maid cleaning people’s houses. Ten years later they had bought a house, had three boys and were very proud of their home, their children and the community they lived in.

photo by Ricardo Lopez S./ flickr
My relatives met the man and they became friends. He had all sorts of skills and so they began to call on him. It seems that he could do about anything. He refinished their kitchen cabinets. Put tile in their bathroom. He changed some light fixtures. When they called him with computer trouble—he was there. He even installed hardwood floors throughout their house. He is the kind of man every all-thumbs family dreams of. This Hispanic family sent money back home to relatives who live on limited income.

They never have been able to become American citizens even though all three of their children were born here. Yet they work hard, they want the very best for their children; they pay taxes and social security. While we were there the mid-term elections were held. Oregon’s citizens voted that unless someone was a citizen of the United States, they could not get a driver’s license.

This man now must drive to work with no license and I assume no insurance. Even though he pays taxes and social security—he will see few benefits from the money he pays to the government week after week.

Walking down an Oregon street I saw an ugly sign on the front of one house. “If you can’t speak English—why don’t you go home.” That house also had a target plastered to the front door that said: “We know how to shoot!”

There is something terribly wrong with this picture. Many hope we can starve these people or drive them out of the country. President Obama has said that if Congress and the Senate cannot come to some positive conclusion about immigration he is seriously consider signing a presidential order to protect five million of these people. All this means is that those brown-skinned people like those that stood at my relatives’ door—will be political footballs. There will be no names mentioned, no children’s pictures—just them—stuck in a power play in Washington and the rest of the country.

I keep remembering that word, all, that is embedded in our Constitution and Bill of Rights. Maybe we ought to mark out that word and write in bold letters another word: some. Looks like we still have some work to do as a people.

photo by takomabibelot / flickr

No comments:

Post a Comment