(ThyBlackMan.com) In the last Republican presidential debate Texas Governor Rick Perry was taken to task by his fellow candidates for allowing children born of undocumented parents to receive in-state college tuition rates, and providing social welfare benefits to all regardless of citizenship status. His response?
“(I)f you say that we should not educate children who have come into our state for no other reason than they’ve been brought there by no fault of their own, I don’t think you have a heart. We need to be educating these children, because
Let’s take a look at Ron Paul’s position on immigration, as expressed in one of his ads, and then let us try to place the issue in historical context.
“For generations Lady Liberty welcomed immigrants who came here legally, followed the rules and led productive lives. Today illegal immigrants violate our borders and overwhelm our hospitals, schools and social services. No Amnesty! No Welfare to Illegal Aliens! End birthright citizenship!”
Up until 1925, however, anyone from anywhere (except Asia) was permitted to enter this country. (In 1875 and 1882 laws were passed ending immigration from Asia. And thus was born the concept, “illegal immigrant.”)
Those who sailed into New York harbor, nonetheless, faced bitter opposition and prejudicial treatment. Ironically, many of their descendants today act the same way towards today’s newcomers.
Opposition to immigration goes back to 1492. Neither Columbus and the Conquistadores, nor the Pilgrims and all who followed them, entered “legally.” They came. They saw. And they conquered.
Native Americans, the original inhabitants of the continent, were not considered citizens until 1924. And Africans in America were not granted citizenship status until 1868. In 1909 Congress tried to pass The Negro Exclusion Act to halt immigration from Africa and the Caribbean. However, no such laws were even suggested during the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. Twice as many Africans as Europeans entered North America, but their mortality rates, given that they were in bondage, was far, far higher. The Negro Exclusion Act was ultimately defeated thanks to the lobbying efforts of the NAACP, its first major victory.
Note that whenever Texas is mentioned people automatically, “Remember the Alamo!” the desperate last stand of a band of Texans against an overwhelming Mexican Army in 1836. However, few recall that the American settlement at the Alamo, in the then Mexican province of Texas, was violating the law by practicing slavery. Nonetheless, the Texans soon won their independence from Mexico. The Mexican War (1846-48) was later fought and the entire Southwest, the Northern half of Mexico, was taken by force by the US. Today, however, Spanish speakers are flocking into the entire region.
Rick Perry and Ron Paul are both from Texas the state which contains two thirds of the US border with Mexico. One is the governor, the other a Congressman. As the representative of just one of Texas’s 32 seats in the US House of Representatives, Ron Paul, represents the sentiments of a small corner of the state. But, as governor, Rick Perry speaks for the state as a whole. And the state legislature overwhelmingly ratified these measures. And is this not a matter of States’ Rights, a cause Republicans champion?
Keep in mind that Texas spends, on education, among the least of all the states. Imagine if they were to cherry pick whom to give access to those scant funds!
Yes, the flow of immigrants has to be better regulated. And, yes, building fences and denying aid to immigrants are some of the options that may be considered. However, the right of citizenship to everyone born here is granted by the constitution and can only be changed by amendment. As far as building fences is concerned, neither Rick Perry nor Ron Paul favor that, but most of the Republican field does, and vociferously so.
As for social welfare and medical assistance for undocumented individuals, Ron Paul says that we simply can’t afford it, and that the certain knowledge that they will get assistance is drawing people to this country. However, whether that is the case or not, we cannot legally deny assistance to anyone born in this country. As for their parents and older siblings, the state of Texas has collectively decided that this is not the thing to do. And as for what is straining our medical system, is it aid to the undocumented, or unnecessary medical tests, needless operations, deadly drug prescriptions, poor diet, lack of exercise and extremely costly, oftentimes unnecessary, end of life procedures?
The experts in the press roundly criticized Rick Perry’s comment that those who would deny aid to immigrants are heartless. However, that was the clearest, loudest defense of the immigrant population I have heard any presidential candidate ever make. If the Texas governor sticks to his guns, he will be doing what Republicans need to do if they are to remain viable in the years to come. They must broaden their narrow, largely white, often reactionary, base and become much more inclusive.
And so again, yes, the flow of immigration must be regulated, and there are a wide range of options. But let us always strive to keep the discussion in historical context. Also, yes, many African Americans are fearful of competition from undocumented individuals. However, many, many immigrants start their own businesses and strive to get a better education. As do we, but we must do more.
Also, keep in mind many of those seeking to enlist Black support against Latino immigrants do not care for either group. However, yes, there are many principled, sincere opponents to immigration, and those are the people who must be drawn into fruitful discussion. Finally, isn’t the education of all of us key to understanding the world, its peoples, our society and our economy? More knowledge, not less, is sure to illuminate us all. That is my opinion. What is yours?
Staff Writer; Arthur Lewin
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