The outmoded and racially-tainted immigration policy in this country remains a dead elephant lying in the middle of our national life. Its stench permeates our public policy and deadens our sense of compassion and empathy for our neighbors. Amnesty has not been extended to long-term, undocumented residents, although it has been promised by many leading politicians of both parties.
Remember when Republican Senator John McCain and Democratic Senator Ted Kennedy jointly penned a bill that would mandate that a resident illegal return home and from there begin a process of legal entry that would take less than five years? That plan fell flat. In fact, it never got out of the starting gate. When McCain got closer to the 2008 Republican nomination for President, he lost interest. Then our deeply admired, liberal Ted Kennedy finally succumbed to a cancerous brain tumor.
After McCain lost the Presidential election in 2008 and faced a stiff fight in Arizona from a Conservative Republican for his reelection to the Senate in 2010, he not only lost interest in amnesty, but fled from the subject as fast as his old legs could carry him.
We all know about the anti-immigrant law that the Arizona legislature has passed and Governor Brewer has proudly and publicly signed. In the meantime border security between Mexico and our southern states has been beefed up. High fences have been built and surveillance devices installed.
Yet the pressure from a poor Mexican economy and willing, eager workers continues. As I wrote in a previous post about Meg Whitman’s troubles with an undocumented Mexican housekeeper:
They pick our crops, clean our homes, mow our lawns, mind our children and do countless other essential jobs from home maintenance to other service jobs that are often grueling, dirty, low-paying and difficult. My limited experience with these newest of immigrants is that they are family-oriented, hard-working and smilingly polite. In short, they should be welcomed additions to our melting pot.
Xenophobia seems a national disease of ours and automatically pops up unbidden in times of national emergency or hard times. We even tried to deport John Lennon and Yoko Ono because of their activism against the Vietnam War. (Remember? They even sang “Give peace a chance” at anti-war rallies.)
The Nixon administration ordered them expelled [Here], but unlike the many Mexican illegals, Lennon and Ono had famous friends in very high places who wrote the Immigration and Naturalization Service. The list is long and impressive with people such as: Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Leonard Bernstein, John Updike, Tony Curtis, and even New York Mayor John Lindsay. [Here]
Nixon didn’t relent. After he was re-elected in 1972, he persisted, but the Watergate scandal forced him to resign to avoid inevitable impeachment. (As one reporter wrote, “Nixon left the White House, and Lennon — and Ono — stayed in the U.S.”)
In October 1975, a federal 3-judge panel ruled for Lennon. He could stay. (Lennon had pleaded quilty in London for possession of a small amount of pot and the Nixon folks had said that he had been allowed into this country illegally. The federal panel disagreed and ruled that the London affair didn’t meet our level of justice. Ahem.)
When will we come to our senses and remember Emma Lazarus’s words:
Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free...
Indeed, when will we ever learn?....