Kicking Off Immigration Reform?
Obama gives at least three misconceptions in this statement. First that there is a line, second that migrants should pay a penalty (as if they haven't already), and third that they don't pay taxes.
Last Friday, Mr. Obama brought up the topic at the Esperanza National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast and reminded the audience that he is in fact committed to reform. "For those who wish to become citizens," Mr. Obama said, "we should require them to pay a penalty and pay taxes, learn English, go to the back of the line behind those who played by the rules. That is the fair, practical and promising way forward." (link to LA Times article)
It's great that Obama is talking about comprehensive immigration reform now, but what is "the back of the line". So often this term is used and often those of us advocating for migrants ask what line are you talking about?
Generally one pictures an actually line at the border stretching miles and miles long not unlike those formed when the iphone was first introduced. It's important to understand that we are talking about people and these people's lives. Citizenship is not a new ride at some theme park though the analogy of waiting in line for six hours only to have the ride shut down due to rain is quite fitting.
So what is the line? David, over a year ago, wrote a great piece titled "There is no line." David is a immigration attorney and should very well know that this line is as much a figment of our imaginations as patriotism. His article was in response to a quote from Obama in March of last year. Over one year later we're still hearing the same language meant to placate to the mobs who treat US citizenship like a piece of fine China only to be observed through glass.
The 'line' is a great quick-grab metaphor for Obama or anyone who doesn't want to sway too far on any side. On one hand he's sounds fair, "you cut in line now you have to move to the back," on the other hand he placates to the anti-migrant crowd, "they cut in line and must pay for it." And they literally do have to pay for it as a penalty is part of his proposal.
But what about the penalty many migrants pay already? What about the money put into social security they'll never see? What about no right to vote or have a say so in what is going on in the community you live? What about having to live in fear of the law and those that would dress up like officers and break into your home? Is that not fine enough? We celebrate strength and courage, but call it a thief and beggar when it's a migrant who has risked everything to live, work, and contribute in the United States.
When a man is killed in Shenandoah for being Mexican is that not fine enough? When a little girl and her father are murdered by anti-migrant demons is that not fine enough? When we take the land of other people and build sky scrapers, in the name of progress, on their graves is that not fine enough?
How absurd is it that he state they should pay taxes. How can they avoid paying taxes? If an employer hires a person without paying them through proper methods they are the ones avoided taxes. This ridiculous statement intimates that migrants purposefully avoid paying taxes. How can they pay taxes when they cannot even come out from the shadows? Some do have taxes taken from their paychecks and all, of course, pay tax when they buy things. It's really a shame to hear Obama use this language. It is so subversive in its promising tone which is more geared towards subduing the hateful anti-migrant crowd then actually bringing his "hope" to those of us that want immigration reform.