What does it mean to be a citizen? Twelve million nationwide, 100,000 in Utah. They are the new faces of immigration…people who risk their lives to come to this country illegally for the chance to help themselves and their families. Their presence…their culture…their impact are forcing us, as a nation, to redefine what it truly means to be a contributing member of the society of the United States of America…in other words, what it means to be a citizen.
In our "Speak Out Utah" segment we debut a new editorialist, Tom Barberi, talk show host on 97.5 FM TALK and Utah’s self-proclaimed "Voice of Reason."
LosYapias.com Read more about the Unity Rally and Dignity March through the eyes of Tony Yapias and other volunteers. This site contains pictures, news and opinion articles. Learn more about the Utah Minuteman Project. This organization is a grassroots effort to motivate Utahns to the defense of their homeland; similar to the way the original Minutemen from Massachusetts and other U.S. colonies did in the late 1700's. The National Immigration Law Center: Their mission is to protect the rights of immigrants and their families. They also have up-to-the-minute information on immigration reform issues and debates. Utah NOW is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites.
[Doug Fabrizio, Host]:
You know an issue is coming to a head when people take to the streets.
Early this week tens of thousands of Utahns surged onto State Street and then packed themselves into the grounds of the City-County Building in a rally that revealed the passion in the debate over immigration.
[Woman at Rally]
“I am American, so is she, so is he. We’re all Americans, so let’s fight this together la razza! Let’s fight it! Go Mechesta!”
Partisans are ratcheting up the rhetoric as congress considers legislation to secure the borders and control the growing numbers of undocumented workers. At the heart of the debate are complicated questions for a nation of immigrants…
Good evening…and welcome to Utah NOW.
Americans on either side of the complicated issue of immigration are taking stock – trying to make sense of the mass demonstrations early this week.
In more than 140 cities throughout the country – including Salt Lake – hundreds of thousands took to the street.
It may have been one of the largest strings of political marches in decades – and likely the most concentrated mobilization of immigrants in the country’s history.
On its face – the marchers were reacting to policy changes designed to reign in a steady stream of people entering the country illegally.
But if you read any of the homemade signs and banners at these rallies – you could see they were also responding to the sentiment behind the policies…Asserting if not the rights that come to full citizens – then at least a measure of dignity that should come to all.
Americans – meantime – are torn – between the demands of the law and the compassion and understanding at the heart of a country built by immigrants.
There’s more to this than fair play or economics – there’s a deeper question here about who should have access to the American dream and how you define citizen.
We begin tonight – with this – from correspondent Ken Verdoia…
[Ken Verdoia, Correspondent]:
Every day, a wave of humanity crashes on the border of the United States in the American Southwest.
I left Mexico because I didn’t have any money for survival. My daughter would get sick and we didn’t have money to buy her medicine. In fact, we didn’t even have money for food.
Every day they risk death in the desert and arrest by the border patrol.
[Agent Steve Macpartland]
. . .in this portion of the border, yes we’ve done a great job in controlling the border. But to say the overall problem and the battle has been won. No. Not even close.”
[Representative Tom Tancredo, R-Colorado]
Last year we stopped a million people trying to enter our country illegally, ok? One million people. Everybody will tell you,[ every single person you talk to on the border, every single border patrol agent] I don’t care who you talk to will say that for every one we get, that we stop, three to five get by us. So do the math. We are failing, and we are failing miserably.
Running the gauntlet of the border, a river of men, women and children pours into the nation.
[Mark Krikorian, Executive Director, Center of Immigration Studies]
These illegal immigrants are now settling all across the country. It’s not just Southern Arizona and South Texas anymore. They are creating very significant problems for states and localities such as whether they should be able to get driver’s licenses, how do we enroll them in schools, all these kinds of basic issues that a modern society has to deal with.
[Roberto Suro, Director, Pew Hispanic Center]
Yet there is also a realization that the country at this point has a demand for certain kinds of workers. . .and nobody’s prepared to give them up.
Every day, an estimated ten million men, women and children hide in plain sight in our nation. Not legally admitted, but readily hired. They separate from families and risk everything to chase an American dream.
“I think they really don’t know the needs we have in Mexico, because you have to sacrifice your family. It’s not like you’re coming here to have fun.”
They touch every corner of life in America, yet remain strangely invisible.
[Mike Martinez, Attorney]:
Society as a whole hides its head in the sand on this issue.
In Utah, 75-thousand undocumented immigrants live and work. Every day living their lives in the grey, in the shadow of hope.
“We sometimes risk our lives to prosper, to move forward, to not die of hunger or give our kids something better, even ourselves. That’s why I decided to come too.
Their lives are controlled by contradictions and conflicts . . . opportunities and dangers.
And yet their fate may be the nation’s own. . .for they challenge the United States, and Utah, to define itself.
I think that the people that are already here are not going to go. They have built lives and will not go. Like that saying says ‘now we are here, now we stay here.’
Just how many are here was indicated this week. Tens of thousands took to the streets of Salt Lake City, the majority urging a path to legal residence for perhaps 100 thousand people living in Utah illegally.
One thing is certain April is the tail end of the prime season on the border and tonight the clandestine crossings will continue.
For Utah NOW, I’m Ken Verdoia.
** indicates an interview originally conducted in Spanish, and translated for the purposes of this web site.
Joining us this evening is Alex Segura. He’s the director of the Utah Minutemen – a group that advocates immigration reform and stricter enforcement of immigration laws. And Tony Yapias is here – he’s the project coordinator for Proyecto Latino de Utah – one of the organizers for Sunday’s demonstration in Utah. Welcome to you both...
Alex I want to start with you and ask you this. What is it exactly do you think that immigration is doing to this country? I want to have you respond to something from the conservative columnist David Brooks of the New York Times.
He wrote this recently. He wrote:
“As immigration has surged, violent crime has fallen by 57 percent. Teen pregnancies and abortion rates have declined by a third. Teenagers are having fewer sexual partners and losing their virginity later. Teen suicide rates have dropped. The divorce rate for young people is on the way down. Immigrants work hard. They build community groups. They have traditional ideas about family structure, and they work heroically to make them a reality.” - David Brooks, The New York Times
His point is, what's the problem? How do you react to that?
[Alex Segura, Director, Utah Minutemen]:
It's like I've said many times before. We have issues of law that we need to regard. You know we are a nation of laws, we want people to come into our country to obey those laws and it's very simple. When you cross the border illegally you violate those laws. The things that you mentioned in your quote, there, those are good things. I'm glad to see that people are being more responsible sexually as well as in their educational areas and I things of that nature. But again what seems to be missing is the fact that they should teach the laws, they should teach respecting the laws and respecting our culture. And it's fine if other families want to have, you know, cultural diversity within the confines of their home that's fine. But as an overall society and the community we need to maintain our American culture, because that's the bond that keeps us all on the same page as far as things go.
But you hear the rhetoric about, you know, immigrants taking jobs and there's a lot of rhetoric, crime rates, all kinds of questions you hear that. What you're saying is on either side of that equation, whether or not immigrants are good socially or bad socially, it doesn't matter.
The fact is there's a law and it’s unfair.
We have immigration laws and I think it's best that everyone stay within the confines of those laws. I'm not saying all immigrants who enter the country violate those laws beyond what they violated when they crossed the border. When you take a job when you illegally violate a country you're violating more than one law; employment law. And false social security numbers you're violating another law. All children need to respect our laws whether they come from other countries, legally, illegally they need to understand we need to obey the laws.
Tony Yapias let me have you respond to this, this comes from Lou Dobbs.
"One of the things that frustrates many of us who care about our country and the truth is the rampant barrage of misinformation… The truth is, advocates of amnesty, guest-worker programs and open borders are unconcerned about the 280 million American citizens, the men and women of this country who work for a living and their families." --Lou Dobbs, CNN
So how do you react to that? Here's DOBBS saying this is a matter of law, there are people here legally, they came here through the right process, and it's just unfair. How are you reacting to that?
[Tony Yapias, Project Coordinator, Proyecto Latino de Utah]:
He's a lot like Alex. He's out to scare people, get his audience. There's no question that we have a problem, an immigration problem. It's long overdue the last time we had an immigration reform was in the 1980’s. Even then that created more problems. But we haven't had a good immigration policy in a hundred years. There's a lot that needs to be fixed. And we're not‑ ‑ Think about it we're not taking a lot of the jobs from people, there's just a lot of jobs people don't want to do. Every time I talk to someone who says well you're taking jobs from us, why can't they go work the fields? Why can't they go do the work, the hard work that's already there? At any given day you look at the new local newspapers, there's hundreds of job ads available. And they're still in need of those.
So Alex, what is it exactly you're worried about? You said you've got to be more than worried about just breaking laws. I mean there's got to be some consequent you worry about. What is it essentially you worry about?
We've got an issue with our culture. I'd like to see our culture remain the way it is. I grew up as a Hispanic in Utah my family's been here over 100 years. We've done fine, assimilated; we stay within the confines of the law. Myself I picked tomatoes as a kid I've done these hard jobs they claim Americans won't do, and I just feel that, you know, if we're going to have a society, we should have one that everyone feels comfortable with each other. But when you have a group of people coming into the country who violate the laws in the beginning, they want to come in and segregate themselves from the rest of the community. They want rights that are above and beyond what we have, I think we've got a real serious problem that we need to start addressing and our congress hasn't done that.
Tony is as simulation part of the problem?
The thing about it is I'm just as American as Alex is.
When he talks about that you know that we need to keep America as it is, well what he's really saying is we don't want America to be brown, or obviously our community has quadrupled in the last 20 years or more than, during the 1990's we grew by 135 percent.
So they're I think what he's saying is he wants to keep America white.
And I mean‑ ‑
Alex how much is race a part of this issue?
For me it's none. I'm color blind when it comes to that. When you have so many people coming so quickly and they cannot assimilate into our culture then we will have a problem. Historically we've brought in lower numbers of people that have assimilated into the country and become a part of what Tony likes to call white America. What I like to call cultural America.
But Alex it takes an average of about 15 months for someone when they first come to this state or country to learn the language. I mean it took me even being 14, it took me a year and a half to learn the language. It has taken me 25 years later I still learn something every day from our community. You're talking about as simulation meaning you need to become American and then forget about your cultural position. If that's the case you have no‑ ‑ You don't have no cultural tradition back to where you come from. I mean you've said you're from Spain and it seems to in me that you don't take any cultural pride in where you come from like I do.
I'd like to say Tony I think you're wrong on that issue, because in my home, in my mother's home my brothers and sisters we are still very Hispanic, tortillas in the morning, pray to Jesus every day, we know where we're coming from. But on the other hand we are American citizens, and we believe in this country and will fight and defend its culture. And we have our culture.
We've always had it for a hundred years now.
One or two word response since we're out of time. Do you see any way, when congress comes back in session, to deal with this issue that there will be some kind of compromise?
I hope there is. I hope they take their time and look at every issue from anchor babies to young people under 18 who were brought in with their parents that they violated the law.
In the end we'll come to some kind of comprehensive immigration package.
I do and I won't rest until the day happens. I mean it's time.
Thanks very much for being with us.
Still ahead – more on the questions of immigration – how do you explain the heat of the passion on this issue and what’s at stake for Americans and the American ideal…
But first – we take this week’s Vox Populi, the voice of the people, from Sunday’s demonstration in Salt Lake City…
Si se puede, si se puede.
We can and we will stay here.
I think if they took everyone out of the country that was here illegally we’d have a lot of problems, a lot of problems.
And all their trying to do is come here and be a citizen and make things right for their families and I think it’s only fair that we give them that chance if their willing to do it the right way.
I’m Cuban, I was born in Cuba, but I’m and American, I’ve been an American since I left that country, ya know what I mean, I left that behind because my country didn’t want me, so America opened its doors to want me and here I am.
Yo quiero amnesty. I want amnesty.
It doesn’t matter if they are legal or illegal. I love them and I love America.
All we really care about is for you guys to hear us, that it ya know, and I think our voice will get heard, I really do.
We were stunned to see so any people out, and it’s good to see their enthusiasm and see the love that they have for our country and we do hope that something will work out for them.
But we need to get together and help those people that have come here for the same reasons, because their countries no good, so now we’ve got to make our country strong, our economy strong, we’ve got to stop being divided this way. These people add to our economy.
So I think we ought to respect that, but at the same time, remember we’re a nation of laws and I think the law needs to be obeyed.
We are here, and we are not going to go away. We’re going to die here. President Bush, we’re going to be here forever, always.
As in most conversations about politics or policy – there’s the thing that’s said and the sentiment behind it – that often goes unspoken.
Both of our guests this evening believe there’s something beyond the rhetoric of the debate about immigration that says something about Americans and American culture.
Joining us is Theresa Martinez – she’s an associate professor of Sociology and associate dean of Undergraduate Studies for Outreach at the University of Utah. Her teachings deal with the issues of racial and ethnic relations. Professor – welcome.
Also here is attorney Mike Martinez. He’s a former columnist for the Desert Morning News and the Salt Lake Tribune… and he frequently lectures on the questions of immigrants and immigration reform. Mr. Martinez, welcome to you.
Let me begin by asking you both what it was you think you were hearing from that last exchange, between Tony and between Alex? What does it reveal about this debate, do you think? Theresa?
[Professor Theresa Martinez, Department of Sociology, University of Utah]:
I wanted to say that what I keep hearing in this was Alex's point that this is a legal issue, we're a nation of laws and we want to encourage our children to follow the law.
Well I also, I'm a child of the 60's, and Martin Luther king taught us a valuable lesson about the rule of law, which is that if a law is abusive or tyrannous, if it's a law that harms people or an unjust law it was a law we could choose to break. I also think that as soon as the minutemen of old, the colonial rebels, as soon as they took arms against Great Britain they were breaking the law. I think we need to think of law as a little bit more fluid and a little more complex here, and I don't think that that's being understood. I think people are seeing the law in black and white, law is always acceptable and always good. Well we know that segregation was not acceptable and not good. And I think that we need to bring that into the discussion.
Mike, what are you hearing?
[Mike Martinez, Attorney]:
Every movement or protest has a slogan, a short hand way of trying to relate to the general populace what you're feeling is. A nation of law means it's a personal impact. What our nation is struggling with right now is, our conscious, our psyche to be for the underdog, to be for someone who lifts themselves up by the boot strap. But on the other hand the last ten years of unrelenting, unmitigated entry by foreign citizens has led us to be impacted in every facet of our life by immigration. For example, if you lived in certain parts of the valley, your kids didn't go to school with immigrant kids. Your family wasn't impacted by poor health care, you didn't have to find housing for them. But now days, they're in every school, they get Medicaid, one‑third of the babies born at the University of Utah are born to foreign citizens. Housing, public housing in the county, they're on the waiting list for public housing and occupy many of the units.
I think we're a nation of the law refers to much broader, we're a nation of laws in terms of giving them all of the services that are necessary to bring them up to our standard, people feel they're treated lowly or equalizing our standard and we're not moving forward, that we're not getting the care and health for our elderly for ourselves, education for our kids, or the standards of jobs that our kids should be getting paid for because they suppress wages also. And I think the nation of law really refers to all of that personal impact it has on us.
Well so how much of this unspoken part of the conversation is about race?
How much of this is race that you're hearing in the debate, the conversation?
It's not about race because Hispanics are an ethnic group. There are only three races and we're Caucasian. It's really about ethnicity. If you had Ethiopia and coal black people, people would take it much more personally about race but they don't because we blend in. I think what they're seeing now though is the fact that the impact on them personally, on a daily basis, their kids can't get summer jobs. Their elderly can't get qualified for Medicaid because it's all used up.
So ethnicity is beside the point.
I think Alex is right. When the point is when you have to choose between being for the underdog and the personal impact it has for me when my kids aren't getting the education I wanted them to get. When my extended family aren't able to get Medicaid, then I'm for personal values, and I'm for enforcing the law.
I don't agree, but you know I respectfully disagree because I think it's all about race. I think that whereas Mike thinks that we blend in, my sense is that people perceive us as brown skinned hoards that come across the border and take their jobs. We're such a racialized nation. And they're targeting blacks and Hispanics. Latinos and blacks. We are an ethnic group, that's true, even by sociological standards. At the same time race and ethnicity is conflated and related in this culture. As a sociologist I would say that it's absolutely a racialized view of Mexicans as inferior, it's almost as common as the Texan view during the Alamo of those dirty Mexicans, you know, brown hoards. It's that kind of rhetoric that spurred Pete Wilson's rhetoric, it's that kind of rhetoric you hear from people like the minute men and from other anti‑immigrant groups.
They talk about them in that way.
The other things you hear about, for example, from some of the minute men, Alex SEGURA in particular is this question of assimilation. What do you make of that? Do you think that's an important issue? This question of, you know, not speaking the language, not being willing to sort of adapt into the culture, whether you got here illegally or not? Is that an issue?
People don't like to be confronted with something that's different. People that aren't like them. That's why we have the English only law when English is not in jeopardy. They don't want to be called racist but in the voting booth they'll vote to say we want our language. But the issue I think is greater than that. It's really not about ethnicity, or else you'd have to explain that to 80 percent of all "Hispanic" Americans that are he will vote to close the borders and restrict immigration. They themselves people like us vote 80 percent to do that. It's not about ethnicity.
It's about the personal impact this is having on them, suppressing wages, poorer health care, bringing them up to our standards is causing us not to move ahead with our own families, not to get the kind of care out of our system that we think that we're entitled to after paying into it for so long.
I think that's about self‑hatred. Jewish people from Germany who came early hated Russian Jews. Now what was that about? It wasn't because they were competing for jobs, because they were not skilled. They hated them because they saw that they were treated poorly and they didn't want to be associated with those lesser beings. And I think that this is‑ ‑
I agree with that.
It's Mexican Americans, Chicanos calling people wet backs. I've heard Chicanos call Mexicans wet backs. These are your cousins, these are our family. So you know I do agree that there's some fears of, you know, will we lose benefits? Etcetera, But I think a lot of it has to do with our own fears and self‑hatred.
For give me. Do you think, really briefly, we can balance as a country the question of law and compassion?
Yes, I do. I think that we can create, we can construct, because we're creative people. I think we are as Americans. I think we can construct a humane immigration reform package. I honestly think that we can but we need to work together and we need to listen to each other.
I think she's exactly right, but we need to draw Mexico into this debate and so far the United States has failed to do that, has not made any effort to do that. Good point.
Unless we do that and take into account the impact that our policies, NAFTA has had on them among others which drive the people this way we're never going to draft a package which the Mexican government will enforce and help us to restrain not just the immigration, but get them back on their economic feet to keep them home.
We're responsible for them coming here.
Okay, Theresa, Mike, thank you very much.
And now – in our “Speak Out Utah” section – columnist and radio talk show host – Tom Barberi…
[Tom Barberi, Editorialist]:
The subject of illegal immigration has been front and center in the news for the past several weeks with protests, demonstrations and marches all across the country including right here in Utah. This may go down in history known as the “Leaf Blower Rebellion”.
Congress has made as much sense on illegal immigration as they have on the tax code. In 1986 when President Reagan granted amnesty to millions of illegal aliens. The country let out a collective sigh of relief knowing the supply of cheap labor would continue. As if to say, well that takes care of that.
Now we have, depending on whose numbers you believe, 11 to 20 million illegal aliens in the U. S. With a new carrot of potential amnesty being waved at the Mexican border, the number of people trying to illegally enter the U.S. is constantly increasing regardless of the dangers.
Congress has been working so hard on the problem that they just had to rest up and take a vacation leaving Washington without doing anything.
Recent protests showed how this entitlement mentality in our country has created contempt for our system and laws. A protester named Mercedes, who is 31, was fired from her job when she failed to show up for work in order to join one of these the protests. She was quoted as saying, “It’s not fair….We went to fight for our rights”. By the way, Mercedes is an undocumented worker, so just what rights do illegals think they have?
If you go to the “Immigration Information” web site you will see that this problem started back in 1790 when they established a uniform rule for naturalization by setting the residency requirement at two years.
That lasted until January of 1795 when they increased the residency requirement to 5 years. Then in June of 1798 they upped that to 14 years.
In all the immigration laws have been tinkered with 142 times.
Note to demonstrators…..If you want my sympathy and support I suggest you make your protest signs in a language I can read, and if you are not here legally don't insult me by protesting. I wouldn't do that in your country.
Finally tonight - time for a few comments…
On our program last week about plural marriage – Rhoda Thompsen sent this note about Attorney General Mark Shurleff:
If (the Attorney General ) isn't supposed to be the "dialogue chief" with this culture, who will be? So far, he has been the only one who has really paid attention to the shades of needs there. He deserves kudos for establishing an environment that facilitates reporting such crimes as child abuse and domestic violence.
And a reaction to last week’s comments from Paul Mero of the Sutherland Institute. Karine Beesley – a 5th generation Utahn now living in California writes…
The comments made by Paul Mero were typical of extreme views spouted in ignorance. I was raised next to Colorado City, and was not sure that HBO could develop a series that was an accurate portrayal of the type of polygamists I've encountered. They have created a series that is entirely credible, melding a more "mainstream" polygamist with the "fundamentalist" crowd.
That’s Utah NOW for this evening… thanks for joining us …. Remember you can join the conversation with an e-mail… our address is UtahNOW@kued.org. We may read your comments on air or even invite you to read them yourself. In the meantime - we’ll be back next Friday with another edition of Utah NOW… until then, I’m Doug Fabrizio.
I think racist sentiments only come into play when they hear of the hordes pouring over the border illegally and then later have the nerve to demonstrate in the streets for amnesty and such things. I wouldn't demonstrate in Canada - I would just feel lucky if they didn't arrest me and deport me. It is the "entitlement mentality" that's annoying.
I don't really think true racism is the issue. It's just easy to think of them in hordes when their coming that way and demonstrating that way. I don't think I'm racially superior to anyone and I'm white. Mexico just simply hasn't progressed as far as America has. I'm sure I would be the same way if I had grown-up there.
Tony Yapias and his ilk are just exacerbating the "entitlement mentality".
It's the community activists like him that are giving them this attitude. All it does is rub Americans the wrong way, especially if they do it carrying the Mexican flag.
Posted by John Bigler, Saturday June 13th, 2009 @ 10:12 pm
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