What the GOP Just Doesn’t Get About Immigrants

Something tells me most House Republicans don’t personally know (or think they don’t personally know) one undocumented immigrant.

You can tell by the way they talk about the immigration issue, their most recent statement coming in the form of a one-page outline of their “principles” regarding immigration reform. For them the fact that there are millions of people living and working in the shadows in America is merely an economic issue — a hole in America’s pocket.

“Washington’s failure to fix [the immigration system] is hurting our economy and jeopardizing our national security,” their preamble reads.

The people outside the bubble know that in fact undocumented immigrants are not a drain on our economy. If anything they add to it by working for low wages — which many conservatives seem to love so much these days — and contributing $15 billion a year to Social Security, only $1 billion of which they’re eligible for.

Viewed this way, it would seem that not only do undocumented immigrants fill the jobs most Americans refuse — crop picking, dishwashing, bussing, carpentry, landscaping, nannying and cooking are tough gigs — they also pay for many Americans’ retirement from cushier jobs.

The only economy being abused here is the economy of the immigrants themselves.

And while the idea that we need to secure the border first is all-important in a post-9/11 world, many readers might remember that the hijackers had obtained visas. None of them swam or slipped through a fence to get here.

Sorry, Congressman Gohmert (R-TX), ain’t no al-Qaeda sneaking in across the border.

The drafters of these “principles” also have the nerve to say they don’t trust Pres. Obama will enforce immigration law.

Sure, he’s signed executive orders to see that the Department of Homeland Security places less of the nation’s resources on deporting non-criminals and minor offenders, and instead going after, you know, serious threats to security. Obama, you Merica-hatin’ fool.

But he’s also the same Merica-hatin’ fool who’s setting an all-time scare record by deporting 1,100 people a day — some criminals, yes, but also fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, good employees, loyal neighbors, good-standing members of your local church or atheist coven.

All the while America’s biggest public menace, Justin Bieber, is still practicing his dance moves in Beverly Hills. He’s allowed to egg his neighbor’s house, drink and drive, smoke weed and speed through the streets as he steals jobs from good, hardworking American singers.

He’s one of the #Undeportable.

The only glimmer of hope in the GOP’s release is that they mention the plight of DREAMers.

“One of the great founding principles of our country was that children would not be punished for the mistakes of their parents,” reads the section titled “Youth.” “It is time to provide an opportunity for legal residence and citizenship for those who were brought to this country as children through no fault of their own, those who know no other place as home.”

Seems a few ideas are sinking in, thanks to no less than hundreds of thousands of citizens and non-citziens taking to the streets every year, people writing their Congressperson, staging sit-ins, coming out of the shadows, being heard. At least the GOP leadership appears to finally understand that the DREAMer issue is somewhat separate from the larger issue of immigration reform.

Still they’re quick to add that any DREAMer seeking permanent residency would first have to “serve honorably in our military or attain a college degree” — which nowadays translates to risking life and limbs or taking on a mountain of debt.

It’s the American way.

The section on DREAMers is followed by a hardline conclusion, listing all the blazing hoops immigrants would have to jump through in order to “get right with the law” and “live legally and without fear in the U.S.”

Immigrants would have to “admit their culpability” (are we in 3rd grade now?), “pass rigorous background checks, pay significant fines and back taxes, develop proficiency in English and American civics, and be able to support themselves and their families (without access to public benefits)” [emphasis mine].

In sum, they’d have to be twice the citizen than the average American, a good number of whom have criminal records (especially if they’re black or Latino), can’t read or write, don’t know diddly about government and can’t support themselves.

And to clarify, GOP leaders are adamant that “criminal aliens, gang members, and sex offenders” — the boogeyman trifecta — would have to find some other country to terrorize.

Let’s hear that again: “criminal aliens.” The thought of murderous Martians wielding black-market laser guns scares even me!

Notice how these “principles” hardly mention the humanity of immigrants, discussing them as if they were merely contraband, things to be regulated to ensure our economy is strong and our security is intact.

Conservatives rarely seem interested in understanding who the undocumented are and why they are here. In fact, what they actually think is that the undocumented are mostly criminals and terrorists who come here to cripple America and degrade our values.

But that doesn’t describe the undocumented immigrants I know, people who are hardworking, dedicated to their families and their communities, and grateful for whatever little America has to offer. They don’t come here to leech off society. They’re here to work — to sweat with sore backs, heavily eyelids, blistered palms, bones burning and dead feet.

They despise laziness and sneer at anyone who complains.

They’re people like my wife Rocio, now a permanent resident, who studied and worked hard in this country since she was two years old, though she technically didn’t belong here. She juggled work and college to provide for herself and her American-born daughter and to be a positive role model.

They’re people like her father, who raised five daughters in America, worked three jobs, bought a house, and was forced to leave for Juárez when the paperwork never reached his new address.

Those are only two stories I know. I can’t imagine how many more there must be, and how my heart would break if I knew them all.

Meanwhile, given their new outline of “principles,” I don’t think the GOP leadership knows one undocumented immigrant personally — at least they don’t think they do.

It’s a shame. Things might be different if they did.

It just might change their principles.

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