Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Immigration Attitudes 1882 vs. 2012

In 1882, the Chinese Exclusion Act was passed and California went further in its discrimination against the Chinese by passing various laws that were later found to be unconstitutional...Newspapers around the country and especially in California started to discredit and blame the Chinese for most things, e.g., white unemployment. The police also discriminated against the Chinese by using the slightest opportunity to arrest them. Although there was widespread dislike for the Chinese, some capitalists and entrepreneurs resisted their exclusion based on economic factors---from Wikipedia

My ethnic background is mixed, but most of the relatives I know are the Italian ones.  My family immigrated in the early 1900s when basically you needed to reach U.S. land and be healthy in order to move to the States.  In the 1920s or so, my family started using LaRock for our last name instead of Larocca and all my grandfather's siblings started using Anglisized names to avoid the discrimination they were experiencing.

It seems each generation has an immigrant population in disfavor.  Instead of welcoming the immigrant--as our bishops and Catholic Social Teaching have called on us to do--we repeat the discrimination that has repeated itself through the generations.  Just the origins of the "them" changes.

So here we are in 2012.  In a country of immigrants entering the country illegally from many countries--it is the Hispanics who have become the most recent "them."  Yes, there is good reason to have people come legally, no matter what their originating country is.  There is the consideration of security etc.

There is also the tremendously long wait for the Hispanics to come legally.  To apply to join a family member may take longer than 7 years.  So, think of the family living in Mexico with no hope of adequate work and surrounded by the violence of the drug cartels. 
Girl and father I knew from their trailer window.

As a parent, there are choices to make every day that affect the future of one's children.  Think of these parents...  Do I stay in my home country where I cannot provide for my family and we live in constant danger?  Do we risk entering the U.S. illegally travelling through the desert for days, jump on a passing train and hopefully not get sucked under, or find some other way to get ourselves smuggled across the border--knowing we risk death? That is just to cross the border--never mind the danger involved in getting to the border. I would hate to have to make those choices for my family!  Check out the video "Dying to Live" to get a better sense of the reality of crossing our border.
Family homes for farmworkers in Ohio--there was a central bathroom etc where they would go for access to running water.

Then we have the benefits in the U.S. of having so many undocumented workers.  Many pay taxes and into social security yet will never receive a cent.  There is also the benefit to employers of having so many workers with no rights.  I ministered in Plant City and saw the benefits of having such a cheap work force that has an incredibly strong work ethic.  We pay cheap prices for fruits and vegetables since these laborers don't receive fair wages and are exploited in many ways.

But what about "them" taking jobs from Americans.  Have you met an American willing to spend their day in the fields willing to pick crops?? When I ministered in Florida and I drove home after a tough day teaching and saw the farm workers in the fields picking strawberries---it put my work and life quickly into perspective.
Farmworker trailers in FL directly next to the fields and vulnerable to the drift of pesticides.
What would Jesus say regarding these farmworkers? these children of God? these fathers desperate to provide for their families?  Check out what our American bishops have to say about immigration:

I am grateful that my family had the opportunity to come to the U.S. and I know they suffered being the most recent ones "off the boat."  Isn't now a good time to make our attitudes toward immigrants in need more Christ-like?

Soon, in some parts of the United States, you will see billboards encouraging understanding toward immigrants.  These billboards remind us of Jesus' own walk as an outsider.

1 comment:

  1. Great post and I love the billboard design. I always find it interesting to reflect upon the mentality of "the other" that is so prevalent in our culture. I feel like this idea of "the other" is ingrained in us from childhood starting with gender and then moving to race or physical ability. We humans seem to fear what we don't understand so its easy to scapegoat and fear those who appear to be different from us rather than seeking out the common ground between us.