We had all been warned by MSM. Today was the day when mad immigrants would take to the streets and bring American Cities to a standstill. This morning in Denver my commute was strangely without its usual stresses: where was the traffic? True today was a simply glorious spring day. Who could have asked for a more beautiful day?
At about 11:30 am I looked out the window of my building (I have wonderful unrestricted views of the Capitol and City Park.) I saw a small crowd, dressed in white T-Shirts gathered at the steps of the State Capitol. Was this all there was going to be?
What seemed to happen from my viewpoint was that demonstrators started to show up around lunch time (perhaps using a lunch break here and there) to join in the demonstrators. I watched a slow but steady stream of people marching down Broadway - my view of them was obstructed by large skyscrapers. They then spilled out onto Colfax Ave. and started to congregate on the State Capitol lawns.
I took photos and a little video (my camera can shoot some video- don't know yet how good that will be. Will try and post the video, but I need help from my technical troubleshooter i.e. Kevin.)
The size of the crowd grew throughout the lunch hour - until the front lawns were covered with people, and people were spilling over into City Park. All were dressed in white T-shirts, some waved American Flags, some defiantly waved Mexican Flags (or it seemed like it to me.) There was an atmosphere of a carnival about the demonstration: - families with small children. I could hear drums and the occasional chant of "USA, USA"
The reason for these Nationwide demonstrations was to show the average American citizen how much they and their economy relies on immigrant labor. It was an attempt to show that immigration reform was long overdue.
Many viewed this as a bunch of illegal immigrants wanting to get a free pass, over those of us dumb enough to do it the legal way. Many thought of this as simply a Mexican issue. Some saw this as an issue of Homeland Security.
In any event it spurred debate (passionate and heated) about the nature of immigration and what it means to be an American.
This is what I found out:
The average American citizen has no idea what immigrants have to go through to legally establish oneself in this country.
Some consider this a security issue, and think that the borders should be sealed, and people entering illegally should be immediately deported.
Few seem to realize that immigration laws are basically disregarded in most levels of American society - employers knowingly employ illegal immigrants, law enforcement refuses to enforce immigration laws, and the City and County of Denver won't ask if a prospective employee has the legal papers to work in Denver. (Under the present immigration law as a legal immigrant you are required to show your employer that you have the legal documentation to work legally.) So no wonder illegal immigrants flood through porous borders to reach this nirvana! All you have to do is get in, and once you are in, no one is going to ask for your papers, and no one will have the political will to deport you.
For purposes of full disclosure, I am one of those immigrants who is dumb enough to try and do it the legal way. I have tried to navigate the tangled web of rules, and regulations that govern anyone trying to enter this country. I have spent my savings on making sure that I did things right. I am still not all the way there. I still have the decision of the INS looming over me during the next couple of months. I feel unsettled, insecure.
It seems to me unfair, grossly unfair to allow those who have chosen to ignore the laws (no matter how wacky, wonky and flat out peculiar) of a land that they will be guests of, a means to become permanent residents (i.e. green carders.) It is unfair when you think of the years and years of patience, and expense that millions of people have gone through in order to achieve the same.
I am all for immigration reform. The current system is broken. The events of 9/11 and after showed that. The system is broken because many Americans do not buy into it. Illegal immigrants soon realize this, and understandably use it to their advantage. Who wouldn't?
I don't have any easy answers. There is a problem, a large problem that needs to be fixed in a just and equitable manner. I am not sure how that will happen. Enforcement is a huge problem. Buy in from industries, and citizens needs to be there.
Here's a start: try making the system a little less complicated and less expensive. Reward those who try and do things legally. By making the system of legal immigration/ or even migrant labor a little less onerous, then you don't criminalize people who are otherwise not criminals. But you must be prepared to back this up - you need enforcement at all levels.