MY VIEW/Michael Gryboski – Immigration and the politics of fear

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There is no doubt that we are a nation of immigrants. 

The overwhelming majority of populations called American had grandparents or great-grandparents from elsewhere. This trademark of our society has included iconic historical areas, such as Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. Many political activists demanding leniency for illegal immigration will point to the romantic image of the early 20th century immigrant, ignoring the fact that the reason why our ancestors saw these sites was because they went through the immigration and naturalization process rather than bypassing border patrols.  

Illegal immigration is a crime and should never be considered on a par with legal immigration, the real foundation of our ancestors who came and made new lives. However, there are plenty of people in our local politics who willfully identify the two as one, and therefore consider actions taken to crack down on illegal immigration an attempt to destroy our heritage. Activists in Prince William County and Virginia at large intentionally perpetuate these and other myths. Because of this, large populations of Hispanics are fleeing their homes or simply living in fear.  

With federal efforts to deal with the crisis at the border and millions of undocumented workers within the country stalled, local governments across the nation have stepped up efforts to resolve the issue themselves. Prince William County passed a measure to combat their growing illegal immigration problem. In July of this year a resolution was passed that called for strict enforcement of what could be the most ignored laws of our country: the ones that protect our sovereignty. Included within its text was a demand that police verify the immigration status of people arrested and those found to be in the country illegally are handed over to federal authorities. There were concerns over its implementation, but the goal should not have been an issue to debate.  

However, politics is politics.  

Although the resolution does not specify a race and instead specifically targets a population based on its violation of the law, the Latino community of Prince William has come to the interesting conclusion that this is a measure to scare away Latinos in general rather than target criminals. One member of an activist group called Mexicans Without Borders described the resolution as built on hate and racism, even though no mention one way or the other was made about any race in the law.  

Of course MWB and its allies failed to mention that detail to throngs of Latino residents who organized meetings not long after the bipartisan-supported resolution passed. These activists are making no effort to clarify what the resolution is intended to do, as seen by one attendee of their rallies who said in irrational terror Maybe our children will have to leave school and become illiterateWe came out here to buy a house and have a quiet life. Maybe now we can lose that, too. Whats equally disturbing is that this testimony comes from a legal resident and represents the opinions of many legal immigrants who will most likely go to the polls and vote off of such ridiculous allegations.

Other measures in the Commonwealth of Virginia are happening, some on a grand scale like on January 30th when the House of Delegates passed a proposal to strip organizations and charities of government funding if they provide services to illegal immigrants.  

As with the other pieces passed by governments in Virginia there is no direct mention of Hispanics, but that has not stopped activists from essentially playing the race card in order to advance their agenda. In response to yet another bipartisan success in attempting to curb illegal immigration, a representative from the Virginia Coalition of Latino Organizations said without ignominy that the House of Delegates proposal will create a hostile environment for all people of color. In other words, to try and enforce the law means were somehow returning to Jim Crow.   

Illegal immigration is a problem. On a local level, it costs Prince William $3 million dollars annually to jail criminals who entered the country illegally. This sizable amount of money could be put to better use for legal residents instead. Pieces of legislation like what Prince William, Loudon, and other counties are passing are necessary to begin the process of reasserting our sovereignty as a distinct nation-state where people have to become citizens either by birth or assimilation.  

Undoubtedly there will be far more Latinos arrested and turned to federal authorities than other races, but really so what? In its war against the mafia, the Federal Bureau of Investigation largely arrested Italian immigrants; was it racist for doing that? Where is the outcry from groups like the Virginia Coalition of Latino Organizations and Mexicans Without Borders over legal efforts against the Ku Klux Klan, which obviously would involve targeting people of European ancestry?  

Most likely it is because unlike the ideology of the Klan or the activities of the mafia activists who oppose the Prince William and Loudon resolutions do not see illegal immigration as a moral wrong.

Instead, they see it as part of our heritage as a nation, a nation comprised of immigrants…immigrants who went through the process, including medical examination, registration, and attainment of citizenship. They did not have to jump over a fence; they walked through an open door.

Michael Groyboski lives in North Ridge.

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