Immigration: The New Civil Rights Movement
"Why politics?" I am often asked, “What in the world made you decide to participate in politics?” Texas politics is well known to be a tumble-and-rumble sport. It is one of the most gruesome, unforgiving, vile, and cruel “sports” if you ask me; and oftentimes I think that perhaps it is a sport that you put first before your own convictions—whether religious or Constitutional. But politics is also a means to an end, the manner by which we can solve problems and come up with innovative solutions. It is the process by which we continue to grow as a country and a people, especially in Texas.
America has undergone historical and generational transformations throughout the years. The sixties, for example, was the time when a “new class” of people was coming into its own by voicing their lack of inequality. We had a Constitution that explicitly stated: “All men are created equal,” but this group of citizens did not feel that this constitutional protection, that was enshrined in our Founding Document applied to them. No one wanted to change this inherent contradiction in our legal system, or “rule of law”—-no one.
Many thought that America was on a dangerous course if it allowed a group of people who didn’t have the right to participate in the American process, to vote. Keeping these people, many believed especially the FDR Dixicrats in the South, in the status-quo was better than giving them rights.
Back in the days, there was no talk about deportation with this group of people because they had arrived in America by way of force, and were the first case of human trafficking also known as slavery. Their first entry into the country had not been their choice, but their presence here was legal nevertheless. Even after they were allowed citizenry, these people were a servitude class or had no access to political rights such as voting. However, African-Americans, who had arrived in our country by way of force had now grown into a strong voice by the 1960’s, and were being led by a man who had a vision, Martin Luther King, Jr.
Martin Luther King, Jr., a man of strong deep religious conviction, sought to eradicate the misconception that people were less valuable because of the color of their skin, and he meant it—any color not just black. This terrified people because, if applied, this belief would change the way that America existed with only a few in power. Consequently, those who had held power for a long time felt uncomfortable with this man because he threatened to shake up the legal power structure that had kept race as a factor to negate citizens the equal Constitutional and political rights.
Along the way, a heroic woman by the name of Rosa Parks also sparked a change by acting on her instinct and desire to be a regular citizen. A woman, who with a single act changed the course of action on what was the unconstitutional status-quo.
One day on her way to work, Rosa Parks decided to sit in the front of the bus, a seat available only to “whites” at that time. It was not a violent act nor one with a picket sign, it was an act of civil disobedience, one might say. What is true is this, Ms. Parks didn’t have a calendar or a schedule where she said that this was the day she was going to sit in the front of the bus. What is known is that on that day, she felt compelled to show that she was a human being worthy of respect. Had he been alive, Thomas Jefferson would have said that Ms. Park’s action demonstrated how an individual citizen, who “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,” could topple the “tyranny” of the status-quo. Most believed that her action would be irrelevant to the unfair legal system of the time, but it had larger consequences. History shows us that, she was indeed the spark that lit an entire movement; hence, the civil rights movement ensued because of her act.
People lost their lives during the Civil Rights movement, great leaders to those citizens participating in the demonstrations and picketing, but all of this was a means to an end. It is our nature as Americans, to fight laws that we, wholeheartedly, believe are unjust and contradict our political statements enshrined in our Founding Documents even if costs us our lives.
The current rift in immigration reminds me of this tumultuous time in the 60’s. A group of people are rising up to realize that we are not equal in this process of “securing the border,” as many are being mixed in with those who have no status in the U.S. We have to secure the border, but in the process to do so, we are targeting a group of individuals who were never privy to this battle to begin with, especially the children. We all want the “rule of law,” and in this particular case, regarding children who are released to a “guardian,” we are adhering to the “rule of law” crafted by Texas Republicans whose leader was in the House of Representative and was signed into law by another Texan, George W. Bush. Thus, if you want to argue that the laws are wrong, do so, and I would agree. In fact, I have been stating that we must change the law and secure the border to stop the magnet, but do not blame children for the failed broken immigration system that has caused the ideological gridlock in Congress.
The lines are being blurred by the cacophony of hate, pushed by the same “talking-heads” who do not want our broken immigration system fixed because they are banking on it. If we enforce the law, as many are screaming, we must allow the children to remain in this country just as the law requires; therefore, enforcing the law is against the interest of what many propose. As an officer of the law, I can tell you that these vile statements against these women and children are more political than “legal.”
Immigration is about economics and always has been. However, we are driving into the area of civil rights because of the discourse and misconception regarding the law. What’s worse, we are attempting to use language as the starting point, whether we call someone illegal, anchor baby, much like blacks were called (and are still called by many artists) the “n” word.
What we are about to witness in Texas is this: A major shift in power. Those who thought that they had the vote of a certain class are in for a rude awakening, both Republicans and Democrats. What we know is that people vote because of their beliefs and emotion, which is a real concept that no political strategist can wager against. As the demonstrations against the young children and women grow, so will the discontent with those in power and more demonstrations will ignite a power struggle much like we saw in the 1960’s in the South.
Latino voters, in my own state, will not stand for the dehumanization of these women and children. They will rise up, with their vote, against any Party or politicians who will use this tragedy as an opportunity to raise their polling numbers by uttering inflammatory and acrid statements regarding these women and children.
I would encourage my fellow Republicans, especially my Latino Republicans, to look into their souls, the Bible, and the law, and not let the hateful inflammatory language be part of this dialogue. The voters are watching, and the manner by which this “humanitarian crisis” is handled will determine how Texas remains RED, or how soon it turns blue.
We all agree that we need to secure the border, and we all agree that this system needs to be overhauled, but blaming these children and obfuscating the “rule of law” is a losing argument that may drive away Latino voters into the hands of the Democrats. As President Obama is getting ready to “go at it alone,” let me remind you that this could be a generational issue that will finally turn Texas blue and will bar Republicans from winning the White House for two generations. This current issue on immigration may be what finally wakes the “Sleeping Giant.” You may choose to ignore it, and not even mention it in your campaign, but immigration will become the new civil rights fight for millions of Americans who are personally affected by the failure of Congress to fix this issue.
The system is unfair for millions of Americans and businesses who get lost in the plethora of bureaucratic paperwork; and so blaming the children is hardly the solution, and creating laws that are unjustified is not a sound solution either. Somewhere out there is a Latina Rosa Parks who will soon decide that sitting in the back of the bus is no longer the accepted norm. Soon, she will decide that she is worthy of respect like everyone else and will not be afraid to shake up the power structure, if she hasn’t already.