A couple weeks ago, the Weekly ran a letter written by the son of the guy who was taking sanctuary in a southside church to avoid being deported. The letter detailed the crappy existence the family leads because they have to be careful not to get pinched by La Migra. They can't go to Disneyland; they can't even go someplace where the dad might have to converse in English.
Perhaps it shouldn't bother me, but it does. How does anyone live in this country for 14 years and not speak any English? I played baseball in Mexico for a brief time and while I was there, I tried my hardest to speak only Spanish. It mostly amounted to "Pasame la salsa, por favor," and "¿Donde esta el baño?" (In that order.) I seriously sucked at it, but I always tried. My maternal grandfather, Alfonso DiMarco, could not speak English when he brought his family through Ellis Island. My mom said that he would listen to the radio whenever he was in the house. When the family settled in northern Iowa, he'd listen to broadcasts of Chicago Cubs games to help pick up the language of the land. It gives me the creeps to think that Grandpa DiMarco might have learned some of his English by listening to Ronald Reagan.
All I know is that when they interviewed that sanctuary guy on TV, I would have more sympathetic to him if he had spoken in broken English rather than nonchalant Spanish.
Along those same lines, when the dad got a one-year stay of deportation, the morning paper wrote that he said, "I still don't believe it but I've got the paper here to prove it." Now, we all know he really didn't say that. He said something in Spanish that translates to those words. In the old days of Journalism, it would have read, "Nenoy Ruiz said (in Spanish)..." I guess you can't do that these days because it might prove prejudicial by giving the reader too much information.
In the kid's letter to President Obama, the same factual error that prompted my original column on the subject popped up again. I understand the kid's holding his father up to high esteem; that's how it should be. However, claiming that "he did nothing wrong" just perpetuates the fallacy that is so troublesome and divisive. The father did break at least one law and possibly several others; all of the family's legal travails can be traced to that undeniable and indisputable fact. Claiming complete innocence in such matters only serves to harden the resistance of those who are opposed to immigration reform, while, at the same time, frustrating many of us are in favor of reform. While my capacity for understanding and forgiveness is vast, I simply cannot support someone who openly breaks the law and then claims not to have done so.
I grew up poor in a very violent area. Those circumstances didn't give me the right to break the law in an effort to better my life.
After that first column, I exchanged multiple e-mails with one David S.; a quick perusal of his many claims might lead one to conclude that his initials would be more appropriate were his first name Bill. One of his more outrageous stances (one from which he would not back down, even after I gave him multiple opportunities to do so): Illegally crossing an international border and then using forged legal documents to gain employment is not as egregious an offense as briefly exceeding—by five miles per hour—the posted speed limit on the highway.
According to David S., the country would be better served by focusing its resources on catching people who spit on the sidewalk or discard apple cores in national parks. No, really.
Rolling Stone magazine has a regular feature called "With Us/Against Us" that's like a number line stretching horizontally in both directions. Let's place the mythical Independent voter right in the middle. He thinks it's not unreasonable for a country to have clearly defined borders and for that country to be able to determine who is legally within those borders at any given time. At the same time, he sees as unrealistic any call to round up and remove the 12 or so million people who are in the country illegally.
This is where (the dreaded, by some) compromise comes into play. Granting those who are in the country illegally some sort of legal status (with strings attached) will mostly solve the problem while leaving everyone to walk away from the negotiating table feeling somewhat disappointed. To accomplish this, the mass of people in the middle would have to ignore the "send-'em-all-back" screamers on one side and the "they-didn't-do-anything-wrong" whiners on the other side of the spectrum. One side is divorced from reality while the other side refuses to acknowledge propriety.
The Screamers are strident and uncaring but, in the end, they have the law on their side. The Whiners are oh-so-caring but their morally superior posturing would have us believe that the best way to forgive and move beyond transgressions is to change the definitions thereof and then proclaim that they never really happened in the first place.
That's neither the American way nor does it put them on the side of the angels.