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

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Leading the nation down the wrong path—again

I don’t like being partisan. Siding consistently with a single party is against my nature. But, damn it, the Republicans are at it again. After steering the nation into the Iraq debacle—something which most Americans originally supported but have come to regret—the GOP is once again leading the U.S. into the wrong side of history with its simple-minded bashing of illegal immigrants.

In elections and polls across the country Republicans have discovered a raw nerve of resentment against illegal immigrants. Aware that deportation is an unrealistic option many mainstream Americans are now loudly voicing their ire against government benefits for illegal immigrants. Apparently the dollar-and-cents facet of the issue has escalated in importance as the economy has grown shaky.

As a result, the Republicans have been using immigration to bludgeon the Dems in congress, consistently glomming the issue onto every type of public funding legislation to force the Democrats into exposing their support for sensible immigration reform. Ironically, many of these immigration reform bills like the DREAM act and the AgJobs bill help alleviate the very complaints most nativists hurl at undocumented workers. What's more, denying health care to undocumented workers increases the risk of epidemics which could reach all of us. And by denying their children education, we will create a powder keg generation with few skills, no jobs, and no bonds with our culture. But rather than educate the public, Republican leaders have chosen to exploit fear and prejudice.

The consequences of pandering to intolerance have never been happy. As history has shown, when politicians aid and abet discrimination, it leads us into shame—or worse. The violent excesses of the Know Nothing Party, the Cherokee Trail of Tears, the interment of Japanese citizens during WWII, and the “legal” discrimination of the Jim Crow era are just a few examples. These mistakes have seldom been resolved without pain, suffering, violence, and turmoil.

Today, the Republicans are leading the hate parade against illegal immigrants—and ignoring the effects this outpouring of venom will have on over 40 million Hispanics in the United States.

Like the war in Iraq, we will regret taking this path.

Raul Ramos y Sanchez