EDITORIAL: With immigration, reform nationally, benefit locally
June 17, 2010
During the process of reporting on our Latino series and other stories, we learned definitively that the Latino community does include a small percentage of illegal immigrants.
Many are cousins, brothers and sisters of citizens, but unlike their relatives, they chose to break the law while entering the country. Many are here short-term. Many don’t know how long they will be here. But those illegal residents do not represent the whole of the larger Latino community, which is victimized often by this unfair association.
But there is one thing we can do to help both groups – reform immigration and the customs system to add accountability outside of the secretive Homeland Security Department; without reform – whether this means arresting employers, redefining citizenship or refining our antiquated worker visa program – our society will continue to fail in supporting legal immigrants and policing illegal ones.
To manage illegal immigrants, our country uses the broadly painted Immigration and Customs Enforcement, appropriately named ICE, to raid communities, pluck illegals from their homes, and deport them – many times without public record or accountability.
This action – most recently, 15 were taken and deported from the Tahoe region – alienates families, separates loved ones and creates a large amount of distrust between Latinos and authority figures.
While we don’t condone illegal immigration, we feel midnight raids are the worst way to handle the issue. No federal agency, no matter how crucial to Homeland Security (where ICE falls), should be allowed to enter our neighborhoods, chain up our residents and not be publicly accountable for their well-being.
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These actions create fear, and distrust, at a time when we need the Latino community at the table participating in a changing region. At this week’s Kings Beach Redevelopment Meeting, a large outreach attempted to see them show up. Very few did, evidence that we have a long way to go to decrease the fear of speaking publicly and participating in high-level discussions.
To support our legal immigrants, we must revisit and reform our immigration system as a country. The current system puts all the burden on a local government, local police and local residents, which is far too late in the process to prove any long-term benefit. Even deportation costs taxpayers billions each year.
Most importantly, for our community to thrive, every minority group must feel comfortable to live here, without fear of being arrested by midnight gestapo-style raids or be subject to racism. That could start at a local level by how we work with those communities, but our task is impossible without a reformed national immigration system.