Compassion is missing from the immigration debate
06/19/2013 02:36PM ● Published by ACL
Letter to the Editor:
Compassion. That's what I would like to see a little bit more of in the debate about immigration. What often seems to be missing in the conversation is acknowledgment of why the 11 million undocumented immigrants came here in the first place. These people are essentially economic refugees. They have left countries where no matter how hard they work, for the most part, they will never in their lives own a car. They will never buy a house. They will never have the opportunity to study and go to school and get a good paying job. They have left their homelands for a chance. A chance to work, to earn a living, and to make something of their lives. And if in doing so they have broken a law, I challenge anyone who found themselves in the same situation, to not make the same choice they did.
I see sacrifice. When I look at the lives of the vast majority of undocumented immigrants (and I know many), I see people who have given up everything familiar to come to our land and do our hardest jobs. Many of them never get to see the families they have left behind ever again. I have heard the pain in their voices, and seen the tears in their eyes when they talk about mothers, fathers, siblings, and children that they haven't see in 10 years, 15 years, 20. And yet, we have given them a place in our society. We have given them jobs that, while low paying, are a king's ransom in the countries where they have come from. How is it that we can let them grow and pick our produce, clean our offices, mow our lawns, and take care of our children and call them criminals at the same time?
I also see hard work. Have any of you ever tried picking strawberries for a living? Or tomatoes? Or any kind of fruit or vegetable for that matter? Trust me, it requires a level of focus, concentration, strength, and endurance that most Americans do not even possess. It requires the ability to work under extreme weather conditions, for 12-14 hours a day (for which they do not get paid overtime), and often for 6-7 days a week for months on end. If you have never worked in agriculture, you have no idea of how grueling it is. Again, most Americans would not last a day, let alone a week.
I have never been to India but I understand their caste system. While our current situation is not exactly the same, we do have an "underclass" that is being denied its rights and its ability to be fully contributing members of society. If some choose to only look at them as criminals, and not take into account the full picture of why they came here in the first place then there is not much I can do about that. I, however, choose to look at them as human beings and at the economically viable work that they are doing every day, all over this great land, and all the ways that their hard labor makes our lives easier. We do owe them something. It's called justice. And it is my great hope that this time, we will create a path to citizenship for all 11 million undocumented immigrants. If Ronald Reagan could sign an Amnesty into law in the 1980s, then surely we can show the same kind of compassion that he did, in 2013.