By Deborah Notkin, AILA Past President
This Monday, MSNBC aired a Town Hall Meeting on Immigration which took place in San Diego. All the panel participants with the exception of Michael Cutler, a fellow at CIS (Center for Immigration Studies) were generally positive about the contributions made by immigrants to our nation and about the human tragedies created by our outdated and broken system. The best part of the program was a discussion of the DREAM ACT and what it can mean for the most tragic victims of the current situation – the youth brought here as infants and children by their parents. A potential Dream Act recipient who was called CELSO, was the shining star of the various panels. He symbolized the passion and commitment of immigrant youth who consider themselves Americans and want to fully contribute to our nation. Interview clips of other potential Dream act recipients were also part of the program.
The program included a tape of a group of people in a town in Nebraska who were complaining about the changes in their town. Without much in the way of facts, they complained about the drain on resources for medical care, etc. Most telling was the complaint by one of these folks that when they walked into a store, they heard primarily Spanish being spoken. This was apparently a shocking change to their environment. Panelist Delores Huerta, the sister of the late Cesar Chavez, made an interesting point in regard to the attitudes of these townspeople. She suggested that if the influx of immigrants were Canadians, there would not have been the same reaction.
I found much of the program frustrating as many of the speakers had passion for change but could not articulate solutions. It starts to get tired when we hear continuously that our system is broken without articulating reasonable and workable solutions to this immense problem that is counterproductive for the growth of business and jobs and also separates families with overzealous internal enforcement. Had some of the speakers researched some of the solutions that are being discussed by many committed to this issue for many years, light at the end of this daunting tunnel may have seemed possible. Hopefully, we can get AILA’s excellent solutions manual into the hands of the moderator, who should be acknowledged for trying to tackle this complex issue but who wasn’t successful in getting possible workable and concrete solutions out of the participants.