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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Strong immigrant tradition must be upheld

    “”Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore.””

    So reads Emma Lazarus’ lasting inscription on the Statue of Liberty, adjacent to Ellis Island in New York, the port of entry for so many immigrant families during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

    And while I would like to separate my mother and father from “”wretched refuse,”” this line of poetry has to me, as the son of immigrant parents, always exemplified the greatest success of this nation – the promise of better lives for immigrants.

    My parents helped me from a young age to understand how they came to a new country with little knowledge of its culture and customs and even less in the way of money. But their troubles were assuaged by a country that offered them opportunities neither could obtain in their home countries.

    It was hard work that bought them a share of the proverbial pie so many immigrants come to this country in search of. After all, this is the nation that declared its rights for all people – even if at the time it only referred to rich white men.

    And so it is as a second-generation American that I express my sincere disappointment in hearing leaders such as Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., say that immigration will lead to a doomsday future in which the economy turns sour and all Americans ask, “”How could you have let this happen?””

    Alarmist conjecture of immigrant job-stealing such as this belongs in the mouths of politicians of the past, not in 2006. It harkens back to a century ago, when Italian, Jewish and Russian immigrants were accused of “”stealing”” the jobs of “”native-born”” Americans. The same accusations were levied against Irish immigrants before them. They were derided as unable to assimilate, sullying this nation’s economy and culture.

    However, this couldn’t be further from the truth – since its inception, America has always been the gold standard in assimilating its immigrants as productive members of society. Maybe more importantly, the American economy has always thrived on immigrant work.

    Another Arizona senator, John McCain, put it well when he said, in reference to protests across the country this weekend, “”All those people who were demonstrating are not here illegally. They are the children and grandchildren of those who may have been.”” McCain, a Republican, has since introduced a bipartisan Senate bill endorsing immigration reform.

    Sen. McCain’s proposal errs on the side of the rational, offering a path to citizenship. The proposed deportation of 12 million illegal immigrants working for a better life, supported by Sen. Kyl, is unfeasible. Xenophobic proposals such as his do nothing but expand rules that have already proven unenforceable.

    One might believe there is a difference between my parents, who applied and obtained citizenship legally, and the illegal immigrants who cross this state’s border daily. I don’t.

    Legality is a constantly changing term. We as a country have legalized, and then criminalized, slavery. We have implemented voting laws for women and minorities when it was once illegal for them to vote.

    Principles that we know are right -humanitarianism, equality, fairness – are right no matter what malleable laws are placed in their way.

    The law may have considered my parents legal and other immigrants illegal, but the search for and reward to those who work hard to make a better life for themselves is a value we uphold on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty. Isn’t it only right that we find a way to live up to those lofty goals by helping those attempting to better their lives and the lives of their children?

    Shurid Sen is a junior majoring in political science and economics and can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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