News and views from the award-winning author of the novels The Skinny Years, America Libre, House Divided and Pancho Land

Friday, May 18, 2007

Why the impasse on immigration reform?

Any piece of legislation endorsed by George W. Bush and Ted Kennedy is a child of two unlikely bedfellows. And as the old joke goes, the kid is so ugly they had to hang a pork chop around his neck so the dog would play with him.

Why is it so hard to build a political coalition around immigration? Mostly because the issue shatters party lines. The Republicans are schizophrenic. They want free markets and low labor prices – but they’re worried about the potential political power of the fast-growing Latino population. The Democrats, on the other hand, assume they’re entitled to all minority votes. So they're pandering heavily to make the illegals voters as quickly as possible. Meanwhile, the pickup truck wing of both parties is in full xenophobic apoplexy. It's a political Rubik's Cube.

We've put a lot of the heavy lifting on black civil rights behind us. There is no longer a Jim Crow system of segregation that once “legally” deprived blacks of equal rights. Let's not forget my friends; Rosa Parks was a law breaker. Until the late 1960s, racial segregation was the law of the land. In this century, immigration is going to create the same painful turmoil that we endured getting rid of systemic prejudice in the 1960s … marches, boycotts, church bombings, ghetto riots, “I have a dream” speeches … in some form or other, we will relive these things again. Wait and see.

Raul Ramos y Sanchez

Author of America Libre