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Sunday, November 1, 2009

Immigration Battle

By Silvia Uribe

If you are tired of the health care debate, of the yelling from those who oppose it, and the pleads from those who want it; if you think that the insurance companies are spending too much money promoting their agenda, or you're concerned that your tax dollars are not going to be efficiently spent, you've seen nothing yet.

No matter which side of the debate we may be on, this issue affects us all and we know it. If we're healthy now - good for us. But, sooner or later, we know we will be faced with the inevitable fact that we will get sick, need surgery or treatment for something, and we all can agree, that when that happens, we would like to have the best possible health care at our reach, without having to loose everything for which we've worked so hard.

If there's this kind of turmoil about something that we all can have some degree of agreement, imagine how it will be when the next matter in the order of business comes: Immigration Reform. At least with the health care reform, we can attribute our discrepancies to political manipulation or to financial interests playing a role. Not so simple with immigration issues.

Everyone has their own ideas and biases about immigration. Everyone feels differently affected by the concept, the trends, and the laws surrounding it. Each person's level of acceptance of others varies. Words such as diversity, discrimination, privilege, and opportunity, seem to have a different meaning for each individual, depending on their background, situation, education, and personal experience. We all seem to feel entitled to certain things, but we frequently question others' feelings of entitlement.

While some feel immigrants are hardworking people that do the work no one else is willing to do, others want to portray them as people who take a great number of jobs, and blames them for lowering salaries for the rest of the workers. For some, immigrants are troublemakers, criminals that have no business in this country, while others claim that without these workers, the American economy will crumble like a sand castle. For each and every other argument there are thousands of takes.

If our president is having a great difficulty in dealing with the people on the "other side" of the health care issue, namely Republicans, and insurance companies and their millions, he really needs to be prepared for what will come his way along with the dialog on immigration. With this one, the "other side" could be each American. The president's job will be to unify us in looking ahead and focus on the collective benefit as opposed to on the individual.

Some Latino organizations, such as the National Council of La Raza, and individual community leaders, insist for the immigration issue not to be pushed out too far, and keep the topic alive in the high political circles. They are also preparing to start formal conversations during which they will present the most important points to be included in the reform. They are organizing, informing, and mobilizing their base around the country to be ready when the time comes.

Many anti-Latino, anti-immigrant groups like Minute Men and others, trying to discourage Latinos from organizing, would like to make people think that from the last marches, only harm came to immigrants. What they fail to see is that although it is true that the marches ignited hateful expressions and behaviors against Latinos, they also brought the issues of racism, discrimination, and the need for a change in immigration policy to the forefront, giving it the deserved attention from the government and the public.

The question now is; when will the president move ahead with the immigration reform? No one really knows. The more optimistic say mid-next year. Others, like me, believe that it will take longer - possibly not until sometime in 2011. Obama's reelection year is 2012, and he won't want this thing hanging over him then. Whenever it is, the truth is that the president will need to take a deep breath after the health reform, re-charge his batteries and be prepared for a fierce battle for an immigration reform that won't be easy on anyone, but it is one that our country, as a whole, desperately needs.

Silvia Uribe is a freelance writer with a Latina perspective.

Cross-posted at

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