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

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

OK, they didn’t get amnesty. Now what?

The Senate’s failure to reach agreement on immigration reform last week does not mean the issue is dead. Not hardly. The only thing that perished was the path to a solution. The problems we face—and the pent up passions—will not go away because one hundred politicians could not muster the will to stand up to the small shrill chorus screaming “amnesty.”

A scarcely noticed gesture of reason shunned amid the rhetorical fury was the presentation of one million letters supporting humane immigration reform delivered to the Senate by Univision radio personality Eddie “Piolin” Sotelo. In a sad testament to our sensation-obsessed culture, this gentle act of faith in our political system by Sotelo’s listeners was drowned out in a debate measured in decibels.

So what happens next? Most likely, state and local governments will take matters into their own hands. And if our past is any indication, we are in for some tumultuous times. More than a few of these new laws will be draconian, crafted by state legislators and city councils motivated more by outrage toward illegal immigrants than common sense. Expect these ordinances to be immediately challenged by civil rights groups, creating a morass of litigation for many years to come. In the end, these laws will accomplish little except to drive a wedge into the growing split between Latinos and the mainstream community.

In my novel America Libre, punitive laws against Latinos are one of the volatile elements that fuel the flames of sectarian violence and ultimately lead to civil war. Let’s hope my ability to foresee the future ends here.

Few would argue the Senate bill was perfect. But the absence of a path out of our current mess will surely lead us deeper into the woods.

Raul Ramos y Sanchez