On August 20th in the town of Milford, Massachusetts a drunk driver killed a 23-year-old man. The driver was in a pick-up truck and after he hit him the evidence shows that he then dragged the man for hundreds of yards before he finally stopped.
The drunk driver was from Ecuador and it has since been found that he was living illegally in the United States. We discussed this story intensely at our lunch table at work – the place where we attempt to solve world-wide problems and eat simultaneously. A couple of people at the table were quite adamant that if we had stricter immigration laws this would never have happened. One even suggested that banning immigration altogether would solve many problems in the country. They forcefully made their case but the logic failed at some point. The man was killed by drunk driving. That the alleged killer was here illegally became important only after the fact. The argument of illegal immigration needs to be in a separate arena, not mixed up with drunk driving. The problem with the reasoning is that it assumes that everyone who is in this country without the proper papers is going to drink and drive, wreaking havoc in a family and community. The reality is that most of our views of undocumented immigrants are based on either the media or who we’ve met who has that status. In my case, I could assume that all undocumented immigrant women have breast cancer because on a regular basis women who are not here legally contact me to help connect them to treatment for breast cancer. People who are here without legal papers are not all drunk drivers and they don’t all have breast cancer. That is fact.
While in Arizona our family had the privilege of being invited to two citizenship parties. Petra is from Germany and had worked hard for the status. Just days before she became a citizen she was concerned that because she had received one parking ticket she would no longer be considered for citizenship. It was a valid concern. Her life was an open book during the process. We celebrated with red,white & blue and Petra was visibly relieved that the process was finally over. She and her lovely daughter, Jaqueline, could now legally call the United States “home”.
Isabel is from Mexico. She came to the U.S. years before and was thoroughly settled with an American born husband and two beautiful girls. For her too, the citizenship process was arduous and her life was looked at through a microscope. Watching some of the bureaucracy that these friends went through I gained great respect for people who embark on this process. It’s a long way from Ellis Island to citizenship. I know those who go through the process often have little respect, and great frustration with those who circumvent the process.
Illegal immigration and drunk driving. They are two separate issues. Each needs to be looked at with regards to the community and larger society but they should not be mixed up. To mix them up will muddy already dirty waters, making them even more difficult than they already are.