Guest Editorial by David Pisarra
(Reprinted by permission of the Santa Monica (Ca.)Daily Press.)
Illegal immigrant. It’s an emotionally packed phrase. My entire life I’ve heard derogatory terms for people who cross our borders in the dead of night, or sneak in with less than official papers. Many of them come here to find work and build a life for themselves and their children.
Most of the time they blend in because they don’t want to be found. Other times they stand on street corners looking for work. Gardening, painting, tiling, demolition that’s what these men from South and Central America come here to do.
The silent army of illegal men and women who cook for us, clean for us and raise the children of the privileged come here not seeking to take advantage of social welfare programs, much as the lunatic fringe of the Repuglican Party (yes, I did spell it that way on purpose) would have us believe, but rather to better their lives for themselves and their family.
Immigration, both legal and illegal, has been going on for centuries, and this latest wave of anti-immigration sentiment is really nothing more than an ignorant protectionist attempt to make life easy for those of us who are already here. My grandparents were Italian, Irish and German, much like the grandparents of many of my friends. I assume they were legal, but couldn’t swear to it.
The waves of immigrants our country has seen have varied over the years and truthfully they have always come here seeking to add to our country. Multi-culturalism is a benefit of immigration and it will be our saving grace, not our downfall. Consider the hallmark of an interesting dinner companion - they are well-travelled and have wonderful stories and experiences to share. What makes for a more interesting person—the one who stays forever in the same three blocks they grew up in, or the person who has sought out the world and explored? Who has more to offer in wisdom and insight, the person who found other cultures, values and examined them, or the person who knows nothing beyond their backyard?
We all benefit from the influx of new blood and ideas, and I can’t think of a single time that the current occupants of our continent welcomed the new people with open arms. Perhaps some of the initial settlers got a nice greeting from the Native Americans, but that turned sour quickly.
It is easy to get caught up in the hype and hysteria that the Repuglicans put forth to get the country into a frothy “discussion” of the issue of immigration, but let’s recall that historically, most of our families came from somewhere else, and at one point in time, we were the immigrants of which we now speak.