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Better yet, if the killer hadn't had assault weapons, this wouldn't have happened in the first place.
Every few weeks when one of these tragedies happens, the news media reacts as if it's just an unavoidable act of nature. It's not. It's a completely avoidable result of our country's insane gun laws (or lack thereof). And I've had about enough of it.
Yeah, I know -- guns don't kill people, people kill people. But you can kill a heckuva lot more people a lot faster with an assault weapon than with a knife. Only that kind of firepower allows a maniac to mow down seventy people in seven minutes. Unfortunately, there will always be violent wackos around, but do we really need to enable them to act out their sick fantasies?
Yeah, I know, if we all had guns, we could shoot down the perpetrator. But somehow that never happens in real life. Not a single one of the recent massacres has been prevented that way.
Yeah, I know, if guns are criminalized, only criminals will have guns. But in real life, distinctions aren't that clear-cut. The guy who just want on a rampage in Colorado did not have a criminal record.
I'm all for freedom. But what about freedom from fear? What about the freedom to let our kids go to college or a park or a movie without having to worry about them getting shot up? Without having to be afraid that their or our lives could be snuffed out by a random and completely preventable act of violence.
Folks, this was NOT what our Founding Fathers had in mind. Former Chief Justice Rehnquist -- hardly a bleeding heart liberal -- is on record as saying that the notion that the Founding Fathers sanctioned unrestricted gun ownership is an outrageous fraud perpetrated by the NRA. And there is no way the Founding Fathers could have foreseen the type of weapons used in that Colorado movie theater and the carnage they can wreak. They must be turning over in their graves to hear this freedom to kill being proclaimed in their name.
I'm sick of gutless, politically correct politicians and reporters who kowtow to the NRA and won't call a spade a spade. We don't have to keep letting this happen. It's not inevitable. It's a choice. It's elevating blind ideology and cynical political calculations over public safety and human life. And God help us if we don't do something about it before the next deranged loner gets his hands on a gun.
I hate to break it to you, but if your only argument for extreme immigrant-bashing policies is that they are the law, you are in a pretty feeble position.
Slavery and Jim Crow were also the law in their day. Folks who protested against these policies were branded lawless agitators and dangerous fanatics. Nowadays we put the "law-abiding citizens" who went along with or actively supported these policies in the same category as war criminals who claim that they were "just following orders."
If you want to see where our immigration policies lead, look at the case of the Georgia journalist from El Salvador who is currently facing deportation. Here is a man who clearly faces a well-founded fear of persecution in his country of origin -- extreme rightist forces in El Salvador have threatened his life. In addition, it seems pretty obvious that he is being singled out for his exposes of our government's abuses against immigrants. After all, deportation is a convenient and highly effective way to silence a reporter.
Trying to deport this guy seems like a pretty serious attack on the First Amendment. I was under the impression that this was an important part of the U.S. Constitution that might take precedence over immigrant-bashing. I keep waiting for principled conservatives to speak out against this outrage.
But I guess I'm being naive. I guess that nowadays the politically correct interpretation of the First Amendment is that it only applies to corporate "speech" -- not the voices of pesky dissidents that the Founding Fathers actually intended it to protect.
Maybe we should have deported our county commissioners instead of hardworking immigrants. Based on recent revelations, our county leadership appears to have the skills to flourish in the climate of corruption and drug trafficking in Mexico -- the very conditions that immigrants from that country are fleeing.
One crucial first step is to bar the private prison industry from running detention centers and from lobbying and giving campaign contributions to state legislators. The industry is a walking conflict of interest, and is corrupting the making of immigration policy in Georgia and other states.
Finally, even Supreme Court Chief Justice Roberts, who is hardly known as a liberal do-gooder, just joined a majority of the Supreme Court in ruling that enforcing immigration laws is primarily a federal function, not a state one.
The bottom line is that powerful economic interests benefit from getting cheap labor from undocumented immigrants who are expendable and have no legal protections from exploitation. As usual, our politicians' response is to blame and punish the victims. After all, going after the true culprits would actually require some gumption and thought -- commodities which are in short supply in the Georgia Capitol and the U.S. Congress.
Economic growth and cultural dynamism in this country have always been driven by immigrants, including in many cases undocumented immigrants. The derogatory term "wops," which was applied to Italian immigrants, stood for "without papers." In today's globalized economy, this is truer than ever. We can't expect to force other countries' borders open to our investments and exports while sealing our borders off from the rest of the world.
As for folks who get offended overhearing a few words of Spanish -- relax! It's a beautiful language, and easy to learn. I used to live on the border, and greatly enjoyed hearing people switch back and forth from English and Spanish in the same sentence without even being aware of it. And the people who lived there were some of the most patriotic people I've ever known, with high rates of military service. I'd rather listen to Spanish conversation than English hate-speech any day.
OK, let's inject a few facts into this discussion.
First, the offenses that immigrants are charged with are civil, not criminal. They aren't criminals, people! If they were, they would have the right to retain a lawyer. They aren't afforded this right.
Second, no one talks about the role that the giant private prison companies have played in creating this mess. They helped draft the Arizona immigrant-bashing law, which became the model for our Georgia law. And they give hefty campaign contributions to and wine and dine state legislators who sponsor anti-immigrant legislation.
Under the old system, undocumented immigrants who were stopped were given a hearing date and released. 80%-90% of them showed up for the hearing. Now they are housed in private detention centers at taxpayer expense. The private prison industry basically created a lucrative solution in search of a nonexistent problem.
This has had some unfortunate consequences. First, the private prison companies care about one thing only: keeping their cells filled. After all, this is the basis on which they are paid. They don't care who is in the cells, or whether they belong there or not. This leads them to use their clout to block any attempts to rethink our broken immigration and criminal justice policies.
The private prison industry also cuts corners to maximize its profits. For example, instead of hiring local residents to staff its immigrant detention centers, it pays detainees $2-$3 a day to do the work. And it provide detainees with minimal to nonexistent medical care and inedible food.
Finally, it turns out that private prisons aren't even efficient -- a recent study found that they actually cost more per inmate per day than state-run prisons.
We should all be outraged to see our taxpayer dollars going to subsidize this inhumane, completely unnecessary boondoggle.
Actually, I've traveled widely in Mexico and always been treated with great hospitality. The poorer the people I met were, the more generous they were. The contrast to the way Gwinnett treats Hispanics isn't very flattering.
Despite our best efforts, there is a vibrant Hispanic culture in Gwinnett that enriches our community -- you might want to try tapping into it.
Also, you better hope that you don't succeed in running Hispanics off. You better pray that they are still around when you hit retirement age. With the Anglo population aging, and the money we paid into the system long gone, young Hispanic workers are going to be the ones who subsidize our retirement. In addition to being wrong, our policies are economically shortsighted.
But hey, if we do succeed in chasing Hispanics out of Gwinnett, while we will miss their dynamism, cultural contributions, family values, and the economic boost they have given us, at least we won't have to be mortally offended by occasionally hearing a word or two of Spanish. Sounds like a good tradeoff to me!
Thank you, Esther, for revealing in clear, down-to-earth terms the dirty little secret of immigrant-bashing laws --- in practice, they can't be enforced without racial profiling. Just ask my 75-year-old Hispanic friend, a military veteran and lifelong U.S. citizen, who was detained by the police for "walking while Hispanic."
Thanks as well for having the courage to state the truth in a community that is dominated by a vocal minority that tries to stifle reasoned discussion of immigration issues through intimidation and name-calling.
Please don't be discouraged by the hostile comments that this column with undoubtedly generate. Most of the folks commenting have undoubtedly never actually interacted with a Hispanic in their lives and are uncomfortable coming to terms with the human cost of the immigrant-bashing policies they blindly support. They aren't used to their echo chamber being disrupted by dissenting voices, especially the voice of those who are actually impacted by these policies.
Over time, by telling the truth about the Hispanic community and the way these policies impact Hispanics and diminish all Gwinnett residents, you can break down prejudice and help build a beloved community that is generous enough to embrace us all. Si se puede!
In response to the questions about what taxes undocumented immigrants pay, the answer is that they pay a lot of taxes -- sales, income, social security, and, for the many immigrant homeowners, property taxes -- while receiving very little benefit in return.
In response to those saying that the laws are directed at undocumented immigrants, not Hispanics, tell that to my 75-year-old Hispanic friend, a military veteran who is a US citizen and has lived in this country his entire life, who was harassed by local police. Please explain to me how the laws can be enforced without racially profiling Hispanics. You know very well that blue eyed blonds, or good old boys, are not going to be hassled under these policies or pulled over at a random police checkpoint -- only brown skinned folks are. The police aren't going to stake out predominantly Anglo churches -- only Hispanic ones.
As for the claim that Hispanic families are broken, the reality is that they tend to be more intact than Anglo families, with far lower rates of divorce. National surveys show that Hispanics top motivation is making a better life for their children, while Anglos tend to place more emphasis on material gain. It's our broken immigration policies that are separating and destroying Hispanic families. We actually have a lot to learn from the Hispanic community in this regard -- we should be emulating their strong family values, rather than destroying them.
Finally, if your religion counsels you to unquestioningly obey government authority, regardless of whether the policies in question are right or wrong, whether they are destroying families and sowing hatred, it's a sad excuse for religion. Under that interpretation of religion, Christians would have had to just accept slavery and Jim Crow, which were the law of the land at the time. Ministers and religious activists would have had no business fighting for abolition and civil rights -- they would just have had to grin and bear unjust laws. That's not a religion that I recognize. It certainly isn't the religion of Martin Luther King, Gandhi . . . or Jesus Christ.
Yeah! Let's break up even more Hispanic families! Let's terrorize their children even more! Let's threaten them with the loss of their parents if they dare to come out of the shadows! Let's keep tabs on them and hunt them down.
Verrrrry Christian sentiments. Your pastors must be very proud of you.
Very libertarian, as well. Interesting how you're quite content with government repression as long as it's directed at someone else.
Do you guys ever stop to listen to yourselves? You sound like "good Germans" rooting for the Nuremberg laws in the 1930s . . . or fugitive slave catchers in the south in the 1850s hunting down the "illegals" of that time . . . just good law-abiding citizens who won't tolerate anyone questioning the morality of these laws.
As for the policy being "political" -- give me a break! We just suffered through a series of GOP debates where the presidential hopefuls spent much of their time trying to top each other in pandering to our worst instincts on this issue. Immigrant-bashing is the socially acceptable form of racism -- the new political correctness. Just watch how enraged the bashers become when anyone dares to challenge their conventional wisdom on this topic.
Rep. Woodall's comments are typically clueless. You'd think that politicians who spout patriotic rhetoric would at least bother to read up on American history. Sadly, Rep. Woodall wouldn't know the Constitution if he tripped over it. But then, this is the same guy who believes that the housing and banking crises were caused by excessive government regulation. Don't let the facts get in the way of my ideology!
Maybe if Gwinnett civic leaders had devoted more energy to keeping an eye on the good old boys who run our County instead of scapegoating undocumented immigrants for all our woes, half our County commissioners wouldn't be facing criminal charges.
It's interesting that the loudest defenders of freedom are quite content with government oppression as long as its directed at someone else. But this is a dangerous game. Once you empower the coercive power of the state to go after one group, that same power can easily be turned on others. In the words of the German pastor Martin Niemoller:
"First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out - because I was not a communist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out - because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out - because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me - and there was no one left to speak out for me."
But despite the dark days we are living, I remain hopeful. After all, just 150 years ago most white Americans supported slavery -- or looked away. Abolitionists were considered dangerous fanatics. Fifty years ago segregation was the law of the land in the South, and most white southerners supported it -- or lacked the courage to speak up against it. Civil rights advocates were considered outside agitators and rabblerousers, with special venom directed at whites who stood up for equal rights.
Now I foresee a new civil rights movement arising, one that will sweep away the latest, socially acceptable, politically correct form of prejudice. As Dr. King was fond of saying, "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice."
Again, I apologize for puncturing a fact-free diatribe with inconvenient truths. I recognize that some may find this disconcerting.
In the words of Dr. King, "nothing pains some people more than having to think." But making the effort never killed anyone. Nor, for that matter, did learning a few phrases of another language -- or traveling -- or imagining what it would be like to be in a less fortunate person's shoes. It can even expand one's mind and your heart.
And if we're going to talk about vested economic interests, let's not forget the private prison industrial complex. These companies are big business, and they don't hesitate to throw their weight around to maximize their profits. The more beds in their facilities are filled, the more money they make, so they support policies that fill these beds, whether with criminals or with undocumented immigrants -- men, women, and children. The longer they detain immigrants before deporting them, the richer they get.
Their executives are on record as saying that it would be a serious blow to their bottom lines if we relaxed our criminal and immigration policies. So they have a vested interest in criminalizing immigrants so that they can keep feeding at the public trough.
I don't know about you, but I would rather my tax dollars go to educating young people than paying for ever larger human storage tanks. Georgia, which last time I checked is nowhere near the border, is already home to the largest detention facility in the country. One day our grandchildren will visit these monstrosities the way we visit Andersonville today and wonder how we let this happen.
So we are up against an unholy mix of public prejudice and corporate greed. The final ingredient in this mess is politicians who are too focused on pandering for votes and campaign contributions from the anti-immigrant lobby to stop to consult their consciences. Given that by 2050 one in four Americans will be Hispanic, I suspect that many policymakers recognize that these types of measures are shortsighted in addition to being immoral, but precious few have the guts to stand up for what is right. If JFK were to write a sequel to Profiles in Courage today, it would be a pitifully slim volume.
Last login: Tuesday, October 15, 2013