I have been visiting friends in Arizona recently. I was rather haunted by a conversation we had about how things are going there. I think I mentioned that where I am the housing market seems to be picking up a little bit. There, nothing of the sort is happening because when the markets crashed, the people did not simply turn to rentals. I am sure some did, but for a large portion of the population, the social and political climate was so bad that they left for other states or left the country. The end result of the hard line policy on immigrants was a net loss of the people who staff many businesses and pick the crops. With that came the reality that there are simply no buyers for many of the homes standing empty.
We had some discussion of how difficult it is to find people willing to work in the fields. Farm jobs have been advertised nationally, with only a handful of people showing interest. One state cracked down on the use of illegal immigrants to work the fields, with the result that the crops are rotting in the fields, because there are simply not enough people to pick them. It is a big problem, that shows that really these people are not taking the jobs we want, they are filling the ones we don’t.
I had to admit, that when I first heard of the crackdown on illegals in Arizona, my sympathies were with law enforcement. But then came the stories of my friend’s sons being hassled because of the color of their skin, or the fact that their last name is hispanic. They are half white, mind you, and don’t even speak Spanish, being third generation Americans. But in Arizona, that doesn’t go very far. If you look hispanic, you are suspect, and if pulled over by immigration, you need more than a driver’s license to prove you are a citizen.
They told a story about a truck driver who had 5 forms of ID. But when he admitted that his mom was currently in Mexico, he was detained. He had to contact his mother and get a certified copy of his birth certificate to be let go! This was a United States citizen being treated like a criminal simply because he had brown skin and a hispanic surname! No one should be treated that way. Call a spade a spade, this is what prejudice looks like.
As my friends observed, no one was stopping white people to ask for proof of citizenship. Perhaps my ancestors also came over illegally as well, but that is not an issue. In fact though, until sometime in the last century, there were no laws about immigration. Early on, there were signs saying Irish need not apply, yet they became an integral part of our nation within a few generations. My great aunt, though born in the US, spoke German before learning English. And yet, in the long run, that did not matter, she was as American as any of us.
What bothers me is that this reminds me more of the shameful treatment given to our citizens of Japanese ancestry during WWII. It seems that one must be distinguishable on sight as some underclass in order to be singled out. In a nation built of immigrants, this is troubling. I haven’t a clue to how to address it. I wish we could put those xenophobic whites in a room with some hispanics and get them talking about their childhoods. Perhaps then they could begin to understand that we are all part of the human race and worthy to be treated with dignity.