Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Immigration Reform Is Due

Comprehensive reform would be just


Appearing imminent, a bipartisan effort to draft an immigration bill could bring an end to what made Latinos the favorite punching bag of the year.

If comprehensive immigration reform passes, the ones now cornered in fear while trained into accepting the sinister double standard of being liked for doing the cooking but not allowed a seat at the table, will now be our "legal" neighbors. As if there is anything such as an "illegal" human being.

Overnight, our city appeared enraged by the unacceptable invasion of the Mexicans, disregarding the political correctness that would make us recognize that there are 20 Spanish-speaking countries in a continent that geography books worldwide refer to as America. What worried me beyond the "they took our jobs" rhetoric, or the "looking the other way" at violating labor and immigration laws, was our hesitancy to offer hard-working Hispanic families, the backbone of our sudden economic prosperity, the core elements of what makes us the United States of America: respect and protection.

According to the U.S Census, Hispanic buying power now at $700 billion will reach $1 trillion by 2010. Latino women-owned businesses alone number 553,618, employ 320,000, and generate $44.4 billion in sales; 7.6 million Hispanic citizens voted in the past presidential election and 1.1 million Hispanics are veterans of the U.S. armed forces.

Back to profits: These numbers do not include revenue generated by undocumented workers. Beyond the dollar sign, what should matter is the price paid for incubating a population of voiceless slaves with no rights. What good is leadership that discriminates and divides us?

Moral duty to resolve problem

A compromise is due. From different perspectives, the blame for illegal immigration could be placed on a flawed system in denial of our labor needs. Or perhaps it was our good nature that helped those willing, but lacking work permits, language or connections.

Unable to relate to their struggle, we often take for granted lifestyles that will never be possible for others. Beyond convenient politics, it is our moral duty to resolve this without hurting anyone.

A decade in America brings back memories, thinking about what is best for us, of the words of some I've been fortunate to meet that have remained with me. Actor/activist Edward James Olmos once asked me: If you knew of a place in the world where your loved ones could have the dignity and opportunity that any human being deserves, wouldn't you want them there? Or Dr. Arun Gandhi sharing what his grandfather Mahatma believed, leading us to talk about America, often referred to as a "melting pot'' when it is much more like a "tossed salad," where "every ingredient that is kept whole makes it taste so good.'' Our diversity makes us a rich nation.

At the end the best comes from 'Mamá Teresita', my grandmother, who taught me that "colored or not, different after all, under God we are all equal." She always wanted the best for me. Reciting the Pledge of Allegiance at my U.S. citizenship ceremony last September touched a familiar place in my heart, for it is not where we come from that unites us as a nation, but our ideal that everyone belongs and deserves a chance.

(First published in The Tennessean Newspaper on 01/03/07).

Yuri Cunza is President of the Nashville Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
He can be reached at ycunza@hotmail.com

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