Out of the Shadows

By Sam Yoon

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"""It will make the lives of undocumented immigrants more difficult...and that’s supposed to make the rest of us feel better.""      Sam Yoon
by Sam Yoon, 89.7 WGBH
Friday, June 4, 2010
 
The Massachusetts State Senate has just passed a sweeping measure to force undocumented immigrants deeper into the shadows of our society. The measure would require state contractors to verify the citizenship status of all employees. It would require state courts to verify the immigration status of any criminal defendant. It would establish a 24-hour telephone hotline for tipsters with information on the hiring of undocumented immigrants.

It’s essentially saying, if you’re here, working, raising a family, paying taxes, but you overstayed your visa 20 years ago and have been living here ever since, be afraid.Be very afraid, because your state government is looking to expose you, to deny you basic services, and remind you that you really don’t belong here.

And how does this help? Well, I doubt it will be enough to trigger a massive exodus of the estimated 190,000 undocumented immigrants living here in Masschusetts. If it did, it would be a tremendous boon for the airline industry and wreak havoc on our economy. It will, however, make the lives of undocumented immigrants more difficult and anxiety-ridden, and as a result, that’s supposed to make the rest of us feel better.

The Senate isn’t offering a solution. It’s responding to polling data. It’s offering a scapegoat for the public’s frustration with the economy. Here’s a real solution. It’s what the Obama administration is pushing – a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who otherwise obey the law by having them pay a penalty, any back taxes, learn English, and register with the federal government.

It’s not amnesty. It’s practical. Because it deals with the problem. The undocumented are here, living and working among us. They’re not going pick up and leave if they can help it. They have survival instincts, just like the rest of us. Yes, we need to deport those who are a menace to society, but we need to bring the rest of the undocumented out of the shadows and into the light where we can see them. And it starts by offering them a path to citizenship.

I recognize that this is ultimately a federal solution, but the Massachusetts Senate amendment does absolutely nothing to get us there. In fact it moves us in the wrong direction. It’s now up to the House and Governor Patrick to put the brakes on this measure, support the Obama administration, and keep us focused on practical solutions."

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