History important when considering immigration

Giovanni Batz

As I turn on the television on May 1, I was shocked to see peaceful protesters and the media being beaten by the police at an immigration rally. The issue of immigration reform has ignited the passions of the citizenry of the U.S. to the point where hostility is condoned especially toward illegal immigrants. The recent raids across the country have led to the deportation of parents, consequently separating families without consideration of their children who are U.S. citizens. These are tragic events occurring right now, but no one cares. This is attributed to a variety of factors such as apathy, nativism, xenophobia or plain racism. The dehumanization of immigrants has been accomplished with the term “illegal” which perceives them as criminals by simply crossing the border.

The citizens who hold these positions should understand the motivations of the massive waves of immigration that occurred during the 1980s and the 1990s which were influenced in part by the United States. During the 1980s the Ronald Reagan administration fueled Central American conflicts which led to much immigration to the U.S. in order to flee repression and death from the U.S. backed armed forces. Millions in military aid were distributed to Guatemala and El Salvador and were used for the massacre of the peasants and the indigenous populations such as in El Mozote where hundreds of defenseless villagers where tortured, raped and mutilated.

It is important to note that the Guatemalan conflict was a direct result of the CIA backed overthrow of the democratically elected President Jacobo Arbenz in 1954, which led to decades of military dictatorships and a 36-year civil war. The United States interfered within the domestic policies of Central America, which led to the displacement of thousands, many of which fled to the U.S. During the 1990s the neo-liberal policies in Latin America led to another wave of immigration to the U.S. Most notably, the North American Free Trade Agreement in Mexico claimed that it would reduce immigration from Mexico, but has in fact increased immigration as U.S. corporations have dominated the Mexican economy, decreasing jobs and wages.

Although immigration is attributed to various factors it is important to remember the role of the U.S. in fueling immigration within the last decades. It is the responsibility of the U.S. to protect its citizens which include the children of the separated families and the media. It is an outrage that the U.S. allowed such tragedy to continue. The deportation of Eli’aacute;n Gonz’aacute;lez in 2000 was a prime example of not allowing this to occur. The controversy involving the media has shed a new perspective on the immigration issue which exposes some of the injustices and discrimination immigrants and their supporters face on a daily basis.

Illegal immigrants live in the shadows of society and fear deportation to their homeland where their governments have betrayed them. Many wish to return home. Who doesn’t? This is clear when you recognize how many immigrants send remittances back to their family members and even more so when they start building homes in their respective countries. Many Americans do not or will not recognize the immigrants struggle and continue to abuse of their cheap labor. It is the responsibility of the U.S. to deal with this issue and not blindside it any longer. Established immigrants should have a right to citizenship or legal status. It is vital to remember that the founding fathers promoted the pursuit of happiness and freedom for everyone despite citizenship.